Mirror mirror on the wall – reflections on media use

 

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This is the last blog post for my grad school class called Knowledge and New Media. I’ve been asked to reconsider my first blog post to see if my view of media use and influence has changed.

“But does all of this media influence my perspective of world events? I don’t think so. At least not to the degree that the critics maintain. The media influences my awareness of world events but can only influence my perspective if I am a lazy consumer.”

Those were the words I wrote back in September. My thinking is fundamentally unchanged although during the couse of the class it became obvious how much easier it is to be a lazy consumer, aka media illiterate.

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The reader/consumer has a responsibility for their own media literacy and even moreso the writer has great responsibility. Actually, in my view the role and ethicality of the writer is paramount because today they hold nearly ALL of the power.

Back in the day of big daily newspapers and three television stations (practically seems pre-historic) info consumption was a simpler matter. We had a limited number of writers, all vetted, the writing checked, edited, and verified. Enter the world wide web. Today anyone with wifi and a phone can write and report if they choose to. Everyone is a reporter, editor, publisher. Mind  blown.

New media makes writing and so-called reporting easy. It also makes publication or broadcast easier. World Wide Web anyone? Bloggers are self publishers. Think about that for a moment. Bottom line, the writer is and the writing is critical because less vetting occurs when new media or social media is the sole “publisher.”

So much available info means that the personal responsibility of the writer to be ethical is critically important. Unethical, ill-informed, inaccurate  writing is dangerous. Dangerous to the consumer, dangerous to the media industry and frankly dangerous to our society. As Brooke Gladstone wrote, “we all have a right to our own opinion but not to our own facts.”

Ethically, I think the most viable and valuable writer concept of our age is transparency.

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If the writer has an agenda, just tell me. If the writer has a mission I want to know what it is.  Transparency and the ensuing consumer trust in that behavior is the great consumer safety net. Writers acting unethically is the black hole of media illiteracy. As a society we won’t know who to believe or how or when. As Ms. Gladstone reminds us, we are not entitled to our own facts. (2012)

The importance of writer transparency really grows out of new media, as Jeff Jarvis explains in this video:

Reporters today have the potential for greater power via lightening fast 24/7 new media but that power is offset by the explosion of information options. A daily newspaper has been replaced by news feeds, social media, hundreds of cable channel and on and on. Ad naseum.

The consumption of old school reporting may actually be on the decline so the need for ethics has increased. Readers must strive to build their own media literacy. Do more checking, ask more questions, not take writing at the face (and often unverified) value.  Becoming “media literate” reduces the potential for content consumers to be unduly, unfairly, dishonestly influenced!

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A final thought. We had a reading assignment for this last week and I was struck by the audacity, power and truth of:

TOO BIG TO KNOW: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren’t the Facts, Experts are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room.(Weinberger, D. 2012)

To be honest (and when am I not?) I was simply struck by the fact that at the end of this, my first grad school class, the book title really says it all about Knowledge and New Media. The facts aren’t the facts, experts are everywhere, and the smartest person in the room is the room. Truth.

 

Sources:

Gladstone, B., and Weinberger, D. (2012) The Changing Nature of Knowledge in the Internet Age. pp 1. On the Media. Retrieved from http://onthemedia.org/story/18775-changing-nature-knowledge-internet-age-transcrip

Jarvis, J. (2012) Jeff Jarvis on a Journalistic Code of Ethics. Big Think. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVAePShP50M

Weinberger, D. (2012) Too Big To Know. Basic Books . New York, New York

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Multi Media is Marvelous Media

Multi Media Makes Messaging & Blogging Better

This week we are talking about multi-media elements in blogging and why it matters so much.  Who doesn’t adore blogs with great multi-media elements?  They successfully grab your attention, pique your curiosity, keep your interest, and done right improve the entire content and reader experience.

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Multi-media in the so called New Media is changing everything. Social discourse, politics, news gathering, news reporting, coverage of the Kardashians…what would any of it be without multi-media?

What Does Multi Media Really Mean?

Adding video and GIF’s, embedding links, building dynamic display tools all keep consumers engaged.

Here’s a quick example. Rather than just writing the phrase”Calgon take me away” look at how much more powerful it is to see this:

No accident that I’ve selected this particular commercial. Although undoubtably important and valuable, as a content producer I find many multi-media tools difficult to master. It’s often my “calgon” moment.

Has to be done though…we’ve just gotta get over any technophobic fear of learning how.  According to Matt Smith, a professional blogger and internet marketer from the UK, writing in 2013:

It doesn’t matter how brilliant your writing is, big sections of text on its own can be quite dull. People unfortunately do judge a book by its cover, so it is vitally important that you add other content in your articles to grab your reader’s attention.

Smith was right then and he is, if anything , even more correct now as the technology side of presentation is moving and improving so quickly.

Right Place. Right Time. Some Techniques Are Better Than Others

No one wants a PowerPoint presentation in a touching human interest story. Conversely a highly produced video or some slick animation would be out of place for something like the Oconee County Observations. (Becker, L. 2015) The right multi media has to be…well, the RIGHT multi media for that particular story. To be right. It should enhance the specific piece not just be multi media for the sake of multi media.

I was searching for outstanding examples of multi-media and happened upon: http://www.theplaceswelive.com  (Bendiksen, J. 2015) And trust me when I tell you it is worth a click here.

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Talk about the right multi media in the right place and the right time – OMG. No seriously. Oh Em Gee. The story telling, done almost entirely with unbelievably strong use of multi media tools is extraordinary. From incredible 360 degree views insides the homes to the text boxes over startling powerful still images – I found this use of multi media moving and profound. And the story demanded no less.

How to Know What Multi Media is Right

On the Online Journalism Blog I found a great primer on thinking through what media to use, how to use it and when to use it all based on the story you want to tell.(Bradshaw, P. August 2012) Gee, there’s a fascinating concept, right? Boom!

The article itself is is available here: http://onlinejournalismblog.com/2012/08/21/how-to-get-started-as-a-multimedia-journalist/

It boils the use of multi media down to four logical and bite-sized steps:

  1. Look for multimedia opportunities in your journalism
  2. Plan and practice
  3. Improve the technical side with an understanding of principles
  4. Start simple, and go from there

Frankly, I was inspired. I don’t have to become the Stephen Spielberg of multi media blogging unless that is the best way to tell my stories. I was thinking about which multi media is the most effective for me in this grad school blog, and it occurs to me that an info-graphic would be appropriate.

Blogger Creation of Multi Media

I’m lucky enough to have a great designer working for me, and he usually builds what we need at work, but that felt like cheating in this case. So I’ve used https://www.canva.com/create/infographics/ and taught myself how to do this:

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Not going to win any awards, right? Not really the point, as the Online Journalism Blog says:

Your first attempts will be crude and frustrating – but they will point you to the key issues, and provide the motivation for learning the techniques.

(Bradshaw, P. 2012)

Crude and frustrating? Nailed it. But feeing motivated to improve too.

 

 

Sources:

Becker, L. (2015) Oconee County Observations. Retrieved from: http://www.oconeecountyobservations.org

Bendiksen, J. (2015) The Places We Live (u.d.) Retrieved from: http://www.theplaceswelive.com

Bradshaw, P. (August 2012) How to get started as a multimedia journalist. Onlinejournalismblog.com. Retrieved from: http://onlinejournalismblog.com/2012/08/21/how-to-get-started-as-a-multimedia-journalist/

Easy, Drag-and-Drop Infographic Creator (2015) Canva.com Retrieved from: https://www.canva.com/create/infographics/

Smith, M. (March 2013) Why Multimedia Blog Content Is Good For Your Site. Benchmarkemail.com Retrieved from: http://www.benchmarkemail.com/blogs/detail/why-multimedia-blog-content-is-good-for-your-site

 

 

Blogging for Dummies. By Dummies

I’VE BEEN DOING IT WRONG

I’ve been blogging since 2010. Check that. I have been writing and pressing “publish” on WordPress since 2010. I’ve been doing it wrong. So would a Blogging Code of Conduct have been helpful? Oh hell to the yeah.

Here’s the rub. I can write. I love to write. My boss tells me I’m the best writer in the television station, and since we are a company of journalists and copy writers that’s pretty cool, but…

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Blogging is not just writing. Obviously blogging should mean adhering to an ethical standard, and I’ve got no issue there. Real blogging, good blogging, really good blogging also refers to the way the blog conducts itself. A code of conduct. Best practices, if you will.

That’s where my “but” lives. I am all about being ethical but my blogging conduct is whack. My problem is two-fold I haven’t written nor published a clear mission, and I’m not nearly engaging enough. I’m not guest blogging and I’m not doing a great job of engaging my audience. I’m not getting my blog in enough places to grow. I just write. That isn’t a blogging best practice, that’s just…writing. So I’m kinda batting .500.

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INTERACTIVITY IN PERSONAL BLOGGING

When you look at a proposed blogger codes of ethics (Kuhn, M. 2007) I’m struck by the importance and value of engaging with your blog audience. The blogs I read and enjoy are the personal blogs. The best personal bloggers have style, voice and a mission but they also interactively engage their audience. Personal bloggers all need a clear mission, adhered to consistently to find their audience. The interactivity translates to growing an audience. But actually engaging with the audience is damn hard, time-consuming business. I guess I could just forego sleep altogether. Big sigh.

KNOW WHO ISN’T DOING IT WRONG?

Let’s look at a blog that I admire and touch on the differences between hers and mine. Parenthetically I’m just flat out jealous but let’s not go there.

I’ve been reading People I want to Punch in the Throat which is available at: http://www.peopleiwanttopunchinthethroat.com. (Mann, J. u.d.)

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It’s a personal blog written by Jen Mann and unlike my own blog, she is very clear in her mission, which is a must in personal blogging best practices. In a writing style that signals the mission to come, she says two things in the “about” section of her blog which illustrate her mission.

This blog is called People I Want to Punch in the Throat not Rainbows and Unicorns. I’m a funny writer who was once described as “acerbic with a surprising warmth.” I like that description a lot, so I keep using it. I’ve also been described as Erma Bombeck – with f-bombs. Erma would hate that, but I think that’s high fucking praise.

jenIf you laugh out loud, almost pee yourself or spit out your drink when you read my blog, then do me a favor and share it with your friends. Thanks!!

(Mann, J. u.d.) Jen’s blog is earthy, contemporary and usually funnier than hell. Writing about interesting attention-grabbing topics is, I think, one of the personal blog best practices and she does it well. From the Elf on a Shelf Birthing Video to Transvaginal Ultrasound to Mean Moms at the School Concert (Mann, J. u.d.) the blog posts are always colorful, sometimes cringe worthy and unfailingly genuine.

BEST PRACTICES

The People I Want To Punch In The Throat blog does three things that constitute best practices in my view:

  1. articulate and adhere to a clear mission
  2. be transparent about who you are
  3. engaging with readers

BTW, did ya see how I refer to the blogger as “Jen”…as though I know her? I don’t but I think I’d like to, and her blog makes me feel like I already do. That’s what real blogging engagement feels like! Put that one in the win column for PIWTPITT. Jen’s blog features a Feedburner email subscription option and widgets that make it easy to follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. On FB alone she has nearly a quarter of a million followers. Mann is doing it so right. Big green jealous sigh.

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I have my work cut out for me – cuz I ain’t there yet. I am solid on the ethics side so my blogging isn’t a complete dud. You can find a bit more written about blogging ethics and it all falls into three buckets, honesty/fairness, minimizing harm and accountability. (Kuhn, M. 2007) For those of us who write personal blogs, unless we are complete jerks it’s no biggee to be honest and do no harm. Easy peasy.

Finally, the PIWTPITT blog has found a way to monetize the writing (just shoot me now) and her complete transparency about that is important from both an ethics and a conduct standpoint. Accountability. Jen nails it

I do write sponsored content occasionally, but only for brands I really, really like. I like to work with brands that are a good fit for me and my audience. A couple of the brands I’ve worked with are Responsiblity.org, Hallmark/Shoebox, and Enell. (All of my favorite things: booze, sarcasm, and supportive bras.)

I was poking around and found another blogging code of ethics, put together by cyberjournalist.net and it is available here. http://pcij.org/blog/bloggers-code-of-ethics (Blogger’s Code of Ethics 2007) It’s kinda Ambien-on-a-website if you know what I mean, but the principles are solid. Honesty, sensitivity, corrections, all that good stuff. Like I said earlier, I think the ethics piece is actually easier to achieve and certainly find more written about than the blogging code of conduct.

DON’T LET THE DOOR HIT YOU ON THE WAY OUT

Personally I like Jen’s mantra. (Mann, J. undated) When I articulate my own mission it will be keeping it in mind.

If you don’t have a sense of humor and you can’t laugh at yourself, then this isn’t the place for you. Thanks for stopping by, but don’t waste your time leaving in a huff, it just makes me want to hire a band to see you out the door.

Source:

Bloggers Code of Ethics. U.D. The PCIJ Blog. Retrieved from: http://pcij.org/blog/bloggers-code-of-ethics

Kuhn, M. (2007). Interactivity and Prioritizing the Human: A Code of Blogging Ethics. Journal Of Mass Media Ethics, 22(1), 18-36. doi:10.1080/08900520701315244 Retrieved from:http://pn8vx3lh2h.search.serialssolutions.com/?ctx_ver=Z39.88-2004&ctx_enc=info%3Aofi%2Fenc%3AUTF-8&rfr_id=info:sid/summon.serialssolutions.com&rft_val_fmt=info:ofi/fmt:kev:mtx:journal&rft.genre=article&rft.atitle=Interactivity+and+prioritizing+the+human%3A+A+code+of+blogging+ethics&rft.jtitle=Journal+of+Mass+Media+Ethics&rft.au=Kuhn%2C+N&rft.date=2007&rft.eissn=1532-7728&rft.volume=22&rft.issue=1&rft.spage=18&rft.epage=36&rft.externalDBID=n%2Fa&rft.externalDocID=CAX0300060002003¶mdict=en-US

Mann, J. (undated) People I want to Punch in the Throat. Retrieved from: http://www.peopleiwanttopunchinthethroat.com

Widgets. Instagram. Social Bookmarking. Boom Goes The Dynamite.

There’s a lot of tech and a lot of knowledge behind the newish online tools. The challenge is to figure out which tools to use when. And where. And how.

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Almost makes me long for my flip phone and dial up modem. Almost. I’m not a complete Luddite, I use Facebook heavily and live Tweet sports and TV shows. My kids communicate with good ‘ol Mom exclusively via text.

But I’m not strong in other tools so I’ve decided to experiment with mobile, strengthen my use of Instagram (“insta” in the vernacular) and get smarter about social bookmarking to see if it will streamline my news consumption.

Let’s tackle mobile first because I wanted the most current data about the number of people using mobile. Basically, it’s billions-with-a-B! Writing in HuffPo, Vivek Wadhwa (2015) says:

The mighty smartphone is already in the hands of some 2 billion people — about half of the world’s adult population. Every human being will soon own one or more of these powerful computers as costs keep dropping and capabilities increase.

In a beautiful burst of synergy I’m hoping to create a web page about the beleaguered DC mass transit system known as Metro. So I wanted to know more about mobile usage as it applies to mass transit. Good guess on my part as the smart folks at the Pew Research center (2015) say that mobile devices are used heavily in that regard.

Click here to read all of the data (Anderson, M. & Smith, A. APRIL 14, 2015) but you’ll want to pay particular attention to this:

41% of smartphone owners from the Northeast (home to several of the most traveled transit systems in the country) use their phone at least occasionally to look up public transit information, a substantially higher share than in other regions of the country. This activity is also more popular among smartphone owners who live in an urban area than among those who live in the suburbs or a rural area.

This told me a coupla things:

  1. I should use my mobile device for research today because well, when in Rome…
  2. I need to remember how to do a screen shot, damn.

Okay, mission accomplished, check this out. On the left you see my mobile device just chock full of apps, mail, music, web browser etc. and evidence that I’m back in the screen shot business. On the right you see one of the 4 examples I found on Insta of a vocal, engaged group of Metro riders.

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So we know that there are plenty of people using mobile devices AND that in this part of the country nearly half of all smart phone users get info about mass transit by using their phone.

What about this whole Instagram thing? It’s young. (Blake, A. 2015)  And I’m not. Could explain my personal disconnect.

And Instagram use also skews very young, with 53 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds on it. That’s up from 37 percent just a year prior, and no other group uses it even half as much.

And although it’s young, it is hot hot hot. (Bearne, S. 2015)

Forget Twitter and Facebook, for many startups Instagram is the social media tool of choice – and it’s easy to see why. The app has built up such a strong following it’s now more popular than Twitter, with monthly users topping 300 million.

It’s about damn time that I get the whole Insta thing. So I turned back to my iPhone to use Instagram for the 411 about DC’s mass transit. Boom!

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Using Instagram isn’t terribly complicated – and given the youth of the users offer an additional and heavily visual way to reach younger readers. In combo with Facebook, and Twitter, Instagram gives content producers easier ways to reach and engage the appropriate communities of audience.

The final frontier for today is social bookmarking. Honestly I must be too discriminating because I do my own bookmarking. Yeah, too discriminating. That’s my story. Luddite much? I did spend some time with Reddit after reading this:

Think of social bookmark sites as self-storage locations for things you want to find later, or wish to share with friends.

There are more than a dozen well-used social bookmarking sites. Among them are Slashdot, Digg, Newsvine, Reddit, Del.icio.us, Furl.net and others.

(Bookmarking made fun, easy. 2007) Reddit has been around for 10 years. It is more than social bookmarking, although it falls in that category. It’s also a popularity contest.

Reddit users submit pictures, comments or news stories which are then voted up or down by other users. You can ask questions and start discussions too. The more ‘up’ votes your post gets from other users, the more points you get and the more your post gets seen. If your post is really popular, you might make it to the Reddit homepage, which calls itself “the front page of the internet”.

(Morse, F. 2015)

But because I’m determined to use these tools on mobile the first thing I noticed is how clunky the regular website looks on mobile. Given the call-to-action at the top of the screen it was clear that Reddit wanted me to use the mobile version.

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Differences? Well, because a mobile website is designed for mobile, it’s smaller, touch-friendly and easier to read. “It can be accessed using any mobile device’s Web browser, like Safari on iOS and Chrome on Android. Users simply type in the URL or click on a link to your website, and the website automatically detects the mobile device and redirects the viewer to the mobile version of your website.” (Angeles, S. July 15, 2014)

Allrighty then, Reddit knows which device I’m using. Hate it when my phone is smarter than I am. Who uses Reddit? Shockingly, the users don’t look much like moi, check it out:

The figures are in. Six percent of adult internet users in the US have checked out Reddit – the internet’s top repository for memes, quirky old news stories and user-generated interviews with famous people.

Reddit users are primarily young, male and from suburban and urban areas, according to a study conducted by Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project on Wednesday.

Pew found that “young males are especially likely to use Reddit”, with more men in each age category identifying as Reddit users than women. The disparity was greatest in the 18-29 demographic, which has 15% male users and 5% female users.

(Holpuch, A. July 2013) Reddit was interesting to check out, but I don’t see it being a big part of my life going forward. One interesting aside though which made learning about Reddit especially timely. I also discovered that the site had actually made news this week. Remember the missing teen discovered 13 years after his abduction? Turns out that Reddit may have played a role in the story. (Yawn, A. J. 2015)

The big takeaway for me today is understanding how content producers have to be more mobile centric. Fish where the fish are, and all that!

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Sources:

Anderson, M. & Smith, A. (APRIL 14, 2015) The smartphone: An essential travel guide Pew Research Center. Retrieved from: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/04/14/smartphone-essential-travel-guide/

Angeles, S. (July 15, 2014) Mobile website vs. mobile app. BusinessNewsDaily. Retrieved from: http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/6783-mobile-website-vs-mobile-app.html#sthash.JjbF2qRR.dpuf

Blake, A. (2015). The political potential of instagram. Washington: WP Company LLC d/b/a The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.snhu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1651706587?accountid=3783

Bookmarking made fun, easy. (2007, Oct 22). Spokesman Review Retrieved from http://ezproxy.snhu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/395060042?accountid=3783

Holpuch, A. (July 2013) We are the 6%: Reddit use increasing in America, according to Pew study. The Guardian. Retrieved from: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/jul/03/reddit-internet-use-pew-study

Morse, F. (June 2015)  Who uses Reddit in the UK? Newsbeat
Retrieved from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/33254299/who-uses-reddit-in-the-uk

Wadwha, Vivek, (June 2015) Mobile Is Eating the Business World, but Where Are All the Great Business Apps? The Huffington Post. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/vivek-wadhwa/mobile-is-eating-the-busi_b_7487178.html

Yawn, A. J. (2015) Missing Teen May have turned to Reddit for help. The Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser. Retrieved from:http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2015/11/05/reddit-poster-missing-teen/75234224/

Who you calling a JOURNALIST?

In my youth, with considerable naiveté I believed that writers were born, not made. As I matured and began writing for a living, I realized that anyone can LEARN to write…the real writers are the ones who can learn to do it WELL.

So let’s talk about writers, particularly the breed of writers called journalists. We know that there are professional journalists and amateur/hobbyist journalists. There are “killing trees” (print) journalists, and 500-channels-of-blahblahblah (tv) journalists and then there are digital (blogging) journalists. Is there a difference?  Should there be? Does it even matter?

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Anyone can call himself a journalist…it’s a bit like being fired and immediately calling yourself a “consultant.” As far as I’m concerned when it comes to really qualifying as a legit journalist it’s a question of ethics and ethical adherence. As the authors in Blur (Kovach, B and Rosenstiel, T. 2010) often opine there are many different flavors of journalism and journalists these days and the picture gets more blurry all of the time.

Writing in the Center for Journalism Ethics (2015), Stephen Ward’s description of the fast evolving journalism landscape mirrors my own when he says; “our media ecology is a chaotic landscape evolving at a furious pace. Professional journalists share the journalistic sphere with tweeters, bloggers, citizen journalists and social media users.” What’s a poor hapless reader to think? More on that in a sec.

I had an assignment this week that included a review of the Oconee County Observations (OCO) website. You can check it out here:

http://www.oconeecountyobservations.org

Basically it is a fairly dry straightforward recap of the governmental goings-on in Oconee County, Georgia. ICYMI Oconee County is home to some 35 thousand souls (Quick Facts, 2015) including the OCO website author, Lee Becker.  Dr. Becker is a one very scholarly academic dude who boasts a B.A. in Journalism, an M.A. in Communication and a Ph.D. in Mass Communication. (Cox International Center, 2010)

That’s some serious journalistic background right there. So, can we can consider him a journalist. Ummm, YEAH.

But the sheepskin doesn’t make the man a journalist. Becker is a journalist because of his adherence to the ethics of journalism. In my view a journalist is a writer who adheres to the ethical standards of journalistic behavior. It doesn’t have much to do with which or how many colleges he has attended.

Just for yucks (and because I’m brain dead from trying to figure out formatting for my first research paper in 35 years) I thought I’d compare Becker’s own writing and reporting standards with that some acknowledged pros.

Take a look at the summary of good journalism published online by The American Press Institute:

  • Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth
  • Its first loyalty is to citizens
  • Its essence is a discipline of verification
  • Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover
  • It must serve as an independent monitor of power
  • It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise
  • It must strive to keep the significant interesting and relevant
  • It must keep the news comprehensive and proportional
  • Its practitioners must be allowed to exercise their personal conscience
  • Citizens, too, have rights and responsibilities when it comes to the news

Remember the old overhead projectors we used at school back in the day? The teacher could overlay one transparent sheet with another to quickly demonstrate the similarities and differences between two pages.

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Okay, keep visualizing that and read Becker’s own standards. Here is what he writes:

MY STANDARDS FOR OCONEE COUNTY OBSERVATIONS

  • This is a news blog, following in the established tradition of the newsletter.
  • I am a citizen of Oconee County. My experiences and aspirations for the county have influence on what I post here.
  • I strive to be accurate, fair and transparent.
  • I want to offer a balanced presentation that reflects events and discussions, using links to document what is known.
  • I want to offer a balanced presentation that recognized different points of view and portrays the people involved with respect.
  • I want to tell how I learned what I have learned and be clear about any role I have played in what is being presented.
  • Comments are encouraged. I attempt to apply the standards of accuracy, fairness and transparency to them as well.

See what Becker did there?  Don’t his standards look great when overlaid with that of the pros? I think so. BTW, I also find the fact that Becker publishes his standards down the side rail of the OCO is no small matter. Becker does not refer to himself as a journalist, but he doesn’t need to. His standards are so solid that they make him a journalist in every important way.

The Society of Professional Journalists document their own code of ethics in four categories. (SPJ Code of Ethics 2014)

  • Seek Truth and Report It
  • Minimize Harm
  • Act Independently
  • Be Accountable and Transparent

There is no question in my mind that the Ocononee County Observations does that and more. And I’m intrigued that Becker has no more bias than he admits to in his standards, he wants what is best for the county. What a novel and fully disclosed concept!

Additionally, although I find it beside the point, the legal winds are also blowing in Becker’s favor. The courts lately seem to find that bloggers should be offered the same protection as professional journalists. Ronald Coleman wrote in an article called Bloggers, journalists, reporting, and privilege that in a recent New Jersey decision…a Superior Court judge ruled that a blogger acting as a journalist was protected by that state’s journalist’s shield law. (Coleman, R. D. 2014) Based on my review of the OCO I’m dubious that Becker is going to be in need of shield laws, but if you need a little more convincing then the fact remains that judges also seem to legitimatize bloggers as journalists.

As I pointed out earlier the website it a recap of the things happening in the Oconoee County Government. You gotta give the guy big props. Judging from the frequency and depth of his posts, his truthful transparent references to questions or issues he has raised himself and his comment moderation he is doing a terrific job of covering his “beat.”

He gets personal kudos from me too because this is just not very interesting stuff to write about. A bit of a snooze unless you live in Oconoee County but likely pretty hot stuff if you live there. You go Doc!

I was asked if “non-professionals” can show good judgment, assemble information for balanced stories, and build up credibility? Yes, and Dr. Becker is a perfect example.

Frankly, the good doctor has me thinking that more journalists  of every ilk should publish their own standards and goals…maybe that’s what the poor hapless reader should demand.

References:

Coleman, R. D. (2014). Bloggers, journalists, reporting, and privilege. Computer and Internet Lawyer, 31(3), 9-17. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.snhu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1501614725?accountid=3783

Cox International Center (2010) Retrieved from: http://www.grady.uga.edu/coxcenter/Administration/Lee_B_Becker/Lee_Director.php

Dean, W. The Elements of Journalism. (2015) Retrieved from: http://www.americanpressinstitute.org/journalism-essentials/what-is-journalism/elements-journalism/

Kovach, B., and Rosenstiel, T. (2010). What We Need from the Next Journalism.  Blur. pp. 174. New York: Bloomsbury

SPJ Code of Ethics (2014) Retrieved from: http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp

Quick Facts. (Oct. 14, 2915) Retrieved from: http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/13/13219.html)

I’m sorry. Soooo sorry.

“Report now, apologize later.” Four words that make any news director squirm. As they should.

But guess who doesn’t squirm, not even a little? The ad sales guys. It’s all about the benjamins baby, all about the benjamins.

benjamins

A pretty smart succinct guy named Dr. Anthony Curtis from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke explains the relationship very clearly when he writes in part:

A commercial medium wants to sell ad space or time. To make that sale they need to be able to tell potential advertisers that their messages on the air, in print, or on the monitor screen will be viewed and heard by large numbers of consumers.

It’s the money, honey. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Imagine that.

The question at hand is whether or not “report now, apologize later” aka R.N.A.L. is a violation of the SPJ’s code of ethics for professional journalists.

Can’t be answered without understanding the motive and intent.

Sounds like closing arguments in a jury trial, doesn’t it? I believe that we need to judge the ethics involved in the live reporting of breaking news differently than we judge other reporting precisely because of the motives and intent involved in covering it.

breaking newsWhen live news is truly breaking in real time (not the faux breaking news that happened hours ago and is merely labeled as “breaking”) the journalistic intent is to inform quickly and accurately.

So the standard that we use as an ethical measuring stick for accuracy can be temporarily lowered in the interest of the speed needed to inform the public about potential danger. Note that I’m using the word temporarily in combination with potential danger.

When the FBI scolds the AP, the Boston Globe, CNN & FOX News about the mistaken identification of a suspect (Carter, B. April 17, 2013) I think the Bureau was out of line, at least as far as an ethics violation is concerned.

The reporting itself was driven by speed, timeliness and potential danger. According to Bill Carter’s story (2013) the reporters were getting info from their sources. For my money the motive was pure.

The news outlets were not intentionally behaving unethically in their reporting. They also met the SPJ’s (2014) transparency test in explaining who was confirming the info though perhaps they could have gone further in explaining fully who was NOT confirming.  Either way, FBI scolding aside this doesn’t constitute an ethical breakdown.

That doesn’t mean that “report now, apologize later” is ethical in all instances. It isn’t.

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When the Clinton campaign scolds the venerable New York Times for a rush to publication (Flores, R. July 31, 2015) they were spot on. The story about a criminal probe into Clinton’s email servers did NOT involve public safety or danger. The scolding was definitely warranted  because the NYT did fail the SPJ ethics (2014) test.

If the speed to publish is merely a competitive pressure then the SPJ accuracy test should be stringently adhered to. The New York Times had all of the necessary time to publish the correct information, including a correct headline.

The NYT apology (Flores, R. July 31, 2015) says it all:

Citing senior government officials, the newspaper of record initially published a story last Thursday detailing a State Department’s and Intelligence Community’s Inspectors General request for a criminal probe of Clinton. The Times later corrected the story and altered its headline to reflect that the referral did not specifically target Hillary Clinton. A Justice Department official also confirmed to CBS News that the request was not a “criminal referral.”

Since publishing the story, the Times has issued multiple corrections. Margaret Sullivan, the newspaper’s public editor, also wrote a column delving into the problems with the Times’ report, calling it “a messy and a regrettable chapter” and advising the Times to practice “Less speed. More transparency.”

Umm yeah. The Times screwed up big time. Not transparent. Not accurate. Not ethical. Glass house much?

Is it reasonable to expect top notch accurate well-sourced evidence to verify ALL information before it is reported to us? Well sure. And when did you stop beating your wife?

I may not be the best person to ask that question in that I’m an odd journalistic duck – both purist and pragmatist.

I graduated from journalism school in the Watergate era for God’s sake. I hold accuracy dear. And any purist would argue that we should ALWAYS deliver only the most accurate information. Always and exclusively. The SPJ (2014) itself says:

Remember that neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy.

OTOH the pragmatist in me points out that we live in a world where the open sourced users of Reddit are now breaking news with and on cell phones. Steve Buttry nails it when he says that the code of ethics for journalists should be updated for the digital age. You can read his thoughts here:

https://stevebuttry.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/journalists-code-of-ethics-time-for-an-update/

We can’t go all judgey on the AP and The Boston Globe without considering the community of Reddit users (Abad-Santos, A. April 22, 2013) as a part of this story and Reddit’s impact on the speed and accuracy of breaking news in the story of the bombing suspects.

pragmatic

You may remember that Reddit and the community open-sourced users on subreddit played an integral role in identifying the Boston Marathon bombing suspects when the online community joined in the search for suspects. This level of user involvement and it’s movement at warp speed are typical of redefined citizen journalism (Kovach and Rosentiel, Blur. 2010)  If CNN, The AP, BuzzFeed, HuffPo and the like can’t keep up they will lose users – then revenue – then life.

And here is the rub. Who is to blame for this trend? Should we demand more from our news agencies, or are we, with our desire for immediate knowledge, the culprit?

Guilty as charged, the consumers are the problem. ‘Fraid so. It’s us. We have created this monster.

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We have a voracious appetite for immediate information. We consume news on every platform and every device. In almost real time. We may not trust ’em, but we use the hell out of them. As long as we continue to reward news agencies with our subscriptions, our likes, our shares and our re-tweets, regardless of their respective adherence to SPJ’s (2014) code of ethics…we are culpable.

It’s the benjamins. Reporting important news fast and first is profitable because it drives usage. Usage numbers drive subscriptions and ad dollars. That’s just math. Accuracy and ethics take a back seat to benjamins.

But as usual I remain glass-half-full. In one form or fashion this “Report Now. Apologize Later” has been going on for a long time (Greenfield, R. Sept. 16, 2013) and it has at least one hidden benefit…corrections are faster too!

Mistakes have happened in breaking news reporting for decades. While Twitter might spread these false bits of information faster than a telegraph, it also has the benefit of correcting those errors faster than ever before.

Just for fun I’m going to end here on a musical note because I’ve been thinking that Elton John was wrong. Sorry does NOT seem to be the hardest word.

References:

Curtis, A. February 24, 2012. Mass Media Influence On Society. Retrieved from http://homes.ieu.edu.tr/~gkaranfil/MCS160/24.02.2014/Mass_Media_Influence_on_Society.pdf

Carter, B. April 17, 2013. The FBI Criticizes False reports of a Bombing Arrest. The New York Times. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/18/business/media/fbi-criticizes-false-reports-of-a-bombing-arrest.html?_r=1

Society of Professional Journalists. (2014). SPJ Code of Ethics. Society of Professional Journalists. Retrieved from http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp

Flores, R. July 31, 2015. Clinton Campaign Slams New York Times for Egregious Reporting Errors. CBS.com. Retrieved fromhttp://www.cbsnews.com/news/clinton-campaign-slams-new-york-times-for-egregious-reporting-errors/

Buttry S. November 7, 2010. WordPress. Retrieved from: https://stevebuttry.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/journalists-code-of-ethics-time-for-an-update/

Abad-Santos, A. April 22, 2013 Reddit Find Boston Bombers Founder Interview. The Wire. Retrieved from: http://www.thewire.com/national/2013/04/reddit-find-boston-bombers-founder-interview/64455/

Reddit About. Retrieved from https://www.reddit.com/about/

Kovach, B., and Rosenstiel, T. (2010). How to Find What Really Matters Blur. pp. 147 – 169. New York: Bloomsbury

Greenfield, R.Sept. 16, 2013. Media Was Always Bad at Reporting Breaking News. The Wire. Retrieved from:http://www.thewire.com/national/2013/09/media-was-always-bad-reporting-breaking-news-brief-history/69464/

Credibility is like a box of chocolates

So this happened.

I sat down to write about credibility and sources. I was procrastinating a teeny tiny bit and poking around online for a clever, pithy quote about credibility when boom…Virus Detected. Malware. Danger. DANGER.

Two hours later, malware successfully deleted without falling for the scam embedded in it, ten million cookies removed, blood pressure and heart rate returning to normal and I’m taking that as a sign.

Note to self: Credibility isn’t about clever quotes. In all seriousness, ascertaining the credibility of articles in online pubs is plain old-fashioned online detective work, coupled with some cynical thinking. The authors of my grad school textbook Blur (Kovach and Rosenstiel 2010) say that there are many components to evaluating the value of a given source, so let’s get to it.

I’m digging in to an article about Ben Carson, published last week in The Huffington Post. The article captured my attention with this headline:

Ben Carson Is The Smartest Guy In The Room. And The Weirdest.

and is available here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/ben-carson-campaign-trail_560eccabe4b0af3706e0a39b

I like the enigmatic Carson but the guy seems to defy description or traditional labels, so the credibility of someone writing about him takes on some especially serious significance.

ben carson

I found the article credible because of both the writer and because of his sources.

The story is written by one Scott Conroy who is described by HuffPo as:

Senior political reporter for The Huffington Post. He previously covered national campaigns for RealClearPolitics and CBS News and is the author of the forthcoming book, VOTE FIRST OR DIE, about the New Hampshire presidential primary.

So who is this Conroy character? And why do I find him credible?

scott conroy

Right now Conroy, who looks to be about twelve years old, is the new(ish) senior political writer for HuffPo after a multi-year stint at RealClearPolitics.

So is he an experienced journalist? Yes.

Does he qualify as an authority? Yes, again because he is well versed in the art of campaigning and this isn’t his first rodeo. I checked out his last gig at Realclearpolitics.com and found this:

Before joining RealClearPolitics, he held several positions at CBS News. He was the network’s embedded reporter for  Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign and Sarah Palin’s VP campaign.

Let’s think too about the publisher of this story. The Huffington Post. Granted it was one of three possible pubs I could use for this post but…

The question of bias becomes interesting when you compare Conroy’s last two employers, HuffPo and RealClearPolitics. I know what I think about them but in the spirit of scholarly review I wanted some actual data. So I reviewed an assessment of readership available from the Pew Research Center for Media and Journalism.

The peeps at Pew assessed the political affiliations of online pub readership to draw conclusions about which group the publication is written for. I know, sounds like a lot of blah blah blah but it’s actually pretty cool so stay with me here.

In a nutshell the readers of HuffPo were found to be slightly left leaning.

OTOH RealClearPolitics wasn’t included in that study so I did more digging. On its website Realclearpolitics bills itself as centrist.

RealClearPolitics is the trusted, non-partisan, convener in a content-rich media environment; thoughtfully curating the best coverage from every angle of the day’s most critical issues.

BUT the website boasts only one testimonial and it is from Megyn Kelly at FOX News. Methinks that RealClearPolitcs may tilt slighty to the right. Interesting dichotomy. Really.

Got me wondering if a conservative reporter writes for a liberal publication does that increase the credibility of the writing or marginalize it? Probably easier to debate the chicken and the egg.

best chicken and egg

I’m going to leave that question for another time because my head still hurts from that whole malware drama. Regardless, from my perspective Conroy is as qualified as any and more than most.

Besides his campaign coverage, Conroy has written two books  Sarah from Alaska: The Sudden Rise and Brutal Education of a New Conservative Superstar by Scott Conroy and Shushannah Walshe (Nov 2, 2010) and the soon to be published Vote First or Die about the New Hampshire primary. 

This writer can find nothing approximating peer-reviewed scholarly publications in re Mr. Conroy although he IS often quoted in The Washington Times and Politico. They are reasonably well-regarded in their own right but probably about as far from scholarly publications as you can possibly get.

One more plus on the credibility side, the online info about Scott Conroy is current and valid, including social media and an email address. The info for HuffPo is current and valid too, and much to my delight the article itself contains the correction to a relatively minor detail which appeals to my sense of accuracy and integrity.

Peer reviews notwithstanding Conroy turns the subject of quirky Ben Carson in to some solid journalism. Like this:

During a swing through the New Hampshire Seacoast region on Wednesday, Carson — who has never sought political office before — demonstrated a wide range of knowledge on national and world issues, at one point elucidating the differences between the YPG and PKK Kurdish factions as effortlessly as if he were explaining the groundbreaking surgery techniques that he once helped develop. 

This is written in the style that Kovach and Rosenstiel (2010) call Journalist as Witness. and in their words represent “the height of reliable news.” As we apply this to the Conroy story I completely agree.

If an experienced writer who is transparent about his own background and experience personally attends, documents and writes about a series of events – I am comfortable with the conclusions that he draws. I may or may not agree with his conclusions but he has given me enough factual basis to begin forming my own opinion. And I do love great writing which Conroy demonstrates beautifully.

I mean, how can you not respect reporting like this:

The room, at this point, remained quiet, as it does most of the time when Carson is on stage. It’s the only way you can hear him.

Finally, Conroy uses firsthand accounts a plenty. The authors of Blur (Kovach and Rosenstiel 2010) write about sources as witnesses and it applies in this case.

Mary Collins, a British immigrant who plans to vote in her first New Hampshire primary in February after passing her American citizenship test, drove an hour and a half from the town of North Sutton to see Carson on the stump in Durham. Collins said that just like the candidate, she grew up in poverty without a father in her home and went on to become the first member of her family to earn a college degree.

Conroy is no mere blogger or self-proclaimed citizen journalist He is professional credible reporter who also happens to be a damn fine writer.

I don’t mean to be pejorative about bloggers (hypocritical much?) I mean, some of my best friends are bloggers but with a few exceptions most of them don’t have the chops, experience or resources to be considered a seriously credible source of info, particularly on the campaign trail. Can you say travel budget?

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Overall, I found the article an interesting compelling read. It was written by a journalist with demonstrable expertise in this area and including interviews with other people in attendance. Doesn’t get much better than that. Conroy ends his article like this:

And with that, the most beguiling contender of the 2016 campaign smiled tightly, let out a little giggle, and walked out of the room.

And I’m just going to leave it at that.

Sources:

Kovach, B., and Rosenstiel, T. (2010). Where Did This Come From? Blur. pp. 76  – 78. New York: Bloomsbury

Conroy, S. (date, year) Ben Carson Is The Smartest Guy In The Room. And The Weirdest. HuffingtonPost.com Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/ben-carson-campaign-trail_560eccabe4b0af3706e0a39b

Conroy, S. Bio (undated) Huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/scott-conroy/(info re Conroy bio) Author? (date, year) title. HuffingtonPost.com Retrieved from

Conroy, S. Bio (undated) Realclearpolitics.com Retrieved from http://www.realclearpolitics.com/authors/scott_conroy

Realclearpolitics History. (June 2015) Retrieved from http://www.realclearpolitics.com/about.html

The Pew Research Center for Journalism and Media. (October 20, 2014) Ideological Placement of Each Sources Audience. Retrieved from http://www.journalism.org/2014/10/21/political-polarization-media-habits/pj_14-10-21_mediapolarization-08/ )

Mass Media Influence ‘to infinity and beyond’ or not

My first class in grad school is called Knowledge and New Media, aptly enough we’ve been asked to start a blog.

Initial topic? Media use and influence. Specifically, my own media use and the ways the media influences me directly and indirectly.

The question seems simple to answer. Until it doesn’t.

Millions of Americans suffer from obesity, my own struggle is with the so-called infobesity.

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I use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and a variety of news and entertainment apps every day. I’m in the news business and also consume an inordinately large amount of old media daily. Three television sets in my office, five more in my department, four television sets at home, two iPhones, two iPads, and a Kindle.

If the data overload I subject myself to isn’t enough (and it is) additional information reaches me through required daily discussions about the trending topics on social media and the local news stories my television station plans to cover. I also write or approve daily television commercial copy ABOUT the latest news.

But does all of this media influence my perspective of world events? I don’t think so. At least not to the degree that the critics maintain. The media  influences my awareness of world events but can only influence my perspective if I am a lazy consumer.

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Do I  believe that the media has the power to tell you what to think about, but not what to think? Absolutely. In the words of Brooke Gladstone (2012) before conducting an interview she says; “everyone is entitled to his own opinions but not to his own facts.”

In other words, we rely on the media for facts and information. That is the job of media. If though the media has the power to tell me what to think it is only because I’ve ceded that responsibility to them.

Does the media attempt to tell me what to think? Yes. The alleged rape at UVA (Somaiya, 2015) the balloon boy (Tate, 2009 ) and the “courage” of Caitlyn Jenner (Braxton, 2015) all come to mind. The size, quality and manner of media trying to tell me what to think is wide and varied.

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Are these positive or negative influences? I find them positive because even when the initial reports are erroneous or biased the ensuing debate and dialogue reflects a healthy cynicism.

Can media shape beliefs? Again, only if I let them.

Should the media tell me what to think? No.

Do they try? Yes.

Can they help themselves? Probably not.

You see? The degree of media influence is not a simple answer.

In a free society that is fortunate enough to have large, relatively independent news delivery sources the onus remains on the individual consumer to use their head, their personal experiences and observations to make up their own mind.

Some of us have very questioning minds. I’ve never known if journalism taught me to question information or if I landed in journalism precisely because I did question information.  I learn “who, what, when, where and how” from the media. But if I allow the media to tell me the “why” then I’m intellectually lazy.

How have information revolutions resulted in ways of knowledge changing or remaining the same?  Kovach and Rosenstiel, authors of Blur (2010) have nailed it;

each advance in communications technology has made it easier to learn about the world around us, to more easily become involved, to challenge and even dismantle old authorities who once controlled the flow of information and to create new authorities.

Each information revolution has made knowledge easier to access.  The ability to reach larger numbers of people easier and faster has clearly resulted in a more informed global community. But knowledge itself, aka the possession of facts is only as important as the consumption of it.

How has the power of media changed throughout history? In his article Mass Media Influence on Society, Dr. Anthony Curtis (2012) writes that “the degree of influence depends on the availability and pervasiveness of media.” In a nutshell, the power of the media has increased along with the increasing number of media sources, the frequency of distribution and the number of places we are touched by the media.

On the other hand, increased media sources has also resulted in audience fragmentation.  So mass media power has grown but mass media influence may be simultaneously declining…that’s just math.

The first week of my first class in grad school I read a phrase that made me think and also made me appreciate the opportunity to be back in a thoughtful learning environment. The topic was historical differences and similarity in media. Blur’s (Kovach and Rosenstiel, 2010) second chapter is called “We Have been Here Before” and said;

…it is important, as we try to navigate our new world. not to be naive. We should take a breath and look back as well as forward.  Whatever the future news structure, the history of communications suggests that the old technologies will not disappear. But they will change, becoming smaller and playing a different role. Communication’s history also suggests that new technologies do not change human nature.

The media has great power, it always has. The changes in the frequency and type of contemporary mass media can be staggering as can the concerns about it’s influence. Lest we go all “chicken little” I found the quote from Blur (Kovach and Rosenstiel, 2010) to be profound, true and comforting.

References

Gladstone, B., and Weinberger, D. (2012) The Changing Nature of Knowledge in the Internet Age. pp 1. On the Media. Retrieved from http://onthemedia.org/story/18775-changing-nature-knowledge-internet-age-transcrip

Kovach, B., and Rosenstiel, T. (2010). We Have Been Here Before. pp. 24 and 23. New York: Bloomsbury

Somaiya, R. (April 6, 2015) Rolling Stone Retracts Article On Rape at University of Virginia. Retrieved from, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/06/business/media/rolling-stone-retracts-article-on-rape-at-university-of-virginia.html?_r=0

Tate, R. (October 17, 2009) I Helped Richard Heene Plan a Balloon Hoax. Gawker.com. Retrieved from. http://gawker.com/5383858/exclusive-i-helped-richard-heene-plan-a-balloon-hoax