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Posts Tagged ‘news’

“Getting the story out first” often means what you’re getting is improperly researched half-truths. Take the swine-flu for example: Every day the news stories I watched and read would contradict their own announcements the day before, the media built up its own hype until it got to the point that the only real news left was the fact that the media had over-hyped it all. Like no one saw that coming. In a culture where everyone seems to have a blog, “getting the news first” has become a near impossible goal for any internet outfit. And, dare I say, a less admired one: I’d rather hear the story an hour or so later than everyone else if it goes towards making sure that what I read is accurate (and well-written would be nice too!).

It seems to me that the long-term successful online blogs and publications are going to be the ones which have integrity and researchers – ones which employ people to do more than “type fast”. As Twitter and Plurk grow in popularity (though from what I’ve read recently the retainment rate is hardly stellar), news has become anyone’s game. People seem to spend more time reporting life than living it lately, so it’s not a pleasant trend to watch, and not one I’m keen on joining in: Blogging is as far as I go on the “wow I just blew my nose” minute by minute reporting of existence.

It all reminds me of this extract from an item I referenced a while back, called Why Facebook is Just Plain Wrong: “Devaluing friendship aside, Facebook also encourages an unhealthy culture of voyeurism and laziness. Sitting in a restaurant recently I overheard a table of Gen Y’s talking about what a great night they were having. Several chirped up to say “we should like totally Facebook this!”. Thankfully sanity prevailed as one sensible soul said “how about we experience it for real?”.”

Social critique aside, it is happening, and is effecting people who report news for a living. I can hear you complaining that surely it’s not effecting the professional news outfits, I must be extrapolating too much from comparing the quality and depth of research of your everyday blogger to professional news outfits… Hmm, how about you go read this first. It’s about how one guy used Wikipedia to fool some major news agencies, and he didn’t have to try particularly hard either. My husband has been telling his students off for using Wikipedia to do their university research for a good few years now, I’ve told him to use that story as a warning about the importance of proper sourcing. Maybe the journalists need to go back to journalism school for a refresher course too.

So this is where we end up: Magazines and newspapers have been struggling to compete with a world of news-now online media. But they shouldn’t be trying to; they should be finding their own niche in reporting with fully researched facts, with integrity, and with talented writers. In a way that sets them apart from us everyday bloggers. Similarly though, online news outfits who do it for a living are going to have to think beyond the “we got there first” mentality. Sure you need to be speedy with your news, but if it takes a little longer to get it out because you had to talk directly to the effected parties first hand, or had to confirm your sources, and (gasp) check your spelling, then isn’t it worth the delay? It’s also very important to know whether what you’re saying is fact, or opinion. Because claiming opinion to be fact not only makes you look unreliable, it also exposes you to defamation suits. And those aren’t fun, for anyone involved.

Like I said in a previous post, in a world where it is becoming easier to contact famous people who do famous stuff – especially in our own field of Second Life where we’re all just an IM or notecard away – there are fewer reasons for bad reporting, and resorting to the “he-said, she-said” that still seems so popular. If people won’t look into matters themselves though, or at least be willing to admit that they haven’t done their research, it leaves it up to us the readers to point out that we expect more. At the very least, it is up to us not to perpetuate the short-comings of others by piling on our own opinions of things that never actually happened (or happened in such a different way than reported, that it as good as never happened). There will always be a market for that tabloid style of reporting, but it’s not one I’m interested in. And I only hope those who insist on following it, know what they’re encouraging and how foolish and nasty it will make them look when they treat what those outfits say as if it was truth.

Life’s too short to read crap.

Hopefully, incidents like the Wikipedia one I linked to above, will sink into public knowledge. And we all get a little wiser for it.

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Yesterday I happened upon a story on a local news site promoting a new book that warns people about meeting up with dates met online. Typical story, fine, you hear it all the time and we’re used to these warnings, it’s not really news. But today I found this: “Armed Police Raid Ends Internet Romance“. Now that was news. But they left the best bits out – like what was so dangerous about him and why were the police involved so quickly? We’re not just talking police here either, we’re talking our “armed offender’s squad” (which is New Zealand code for “men with guns and the right to use them”). Even without all the details (which I really want to know), the story is quite scary.

After reading that story I would recommend anyone planning to meet someone they found on the internet, to have a friend or family member with them, and of course meet somewhere public (though meeting somewhere public didn’t protect this woman) – such a simple but vital precaution to take. It’s not always a cheap or easy option – taking someone along with you – but what price can you put on your personal safety? Never forget that the internet makes it very easy for people to hide their true identity, and that there are some sickos out there. I’m suitably disturbed that that particular sicko was from my home country, but hey, even paradise has a few flaws. And if somewhere as safe and open as New Zealand harbours that sort of scum, god know every other country does too.

Just be careful, OK? Thank you ^^

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Edit: Here is a follow-up news item with a lot more detail about what happened *shudders*

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Most Second Life residents don’t know what’s going on at Linden Labs – the changing personalities, policies and major decisions – and most simply don’t care either. They live their daily Second lives the same way most people live their real lives – equally ambivalent and uncaring about the politics that run their world, and what happens to the money that gets taken from them to “provide necessary services”. The main exception to this truth is around election time in the real world, though I’m not sure Second Life has an equivalent regular time of increased awareness and concern across their wider resident population.

I stayed away from caring or being interested in such things relating to Second Life for a year or so. The few times I did click on a link from friends about Linden Labs issues, I was invariably directed to the main Second Life site, and so confronted with a lot of technical terms and a lot of spin.

To get people interested and knowledgeable about these things, the information needs to be presented from a Second Life user point of view, not from the point of view of the people trying to make you love their every decision. It needs to pull out the bits that actually matter and effect the Second Life experience, and it needs to do it in a clear and brief way – I don’t want to be strolling down four screen-pages to get a story that could have been conveyed in two (using links within the article often helps cut down repeating information that the more informed resident is already aware of, and the less informed one can go off and read if need be). It needs to go one step further though, I like to see an opinion: Hearing other people’s opinions gets me thinking about my own – do I agree with them, or not, and why. It also makes the reading so much more interesting. The opinion shouldn’t overwhelm the information provided though – no point rushing in to say “I hate decision x” before explaining what decision x is.

It is remarkably hard to find blogs that do this well. I’m not going to say I’ve read every major Second Life news blog, but I’ve read enough to know that most blogs do a very poor job of meeting the standard of being all of useful, informative and interesting. One stands out: Metaversally Speaking. Strictly speaking it’s not just a “news blog”, but it gets listed as such on some people’s blog rolls, and if I split my blog roll up into different categories I’d consider doing the same. So when I have no idea what everyone’s upset about that’s my first port of call, or if I want a good indicator of public sentiment I read all the comments attached to a post.

I understand why so few Second Life people actually take an interest in Second Life news, since I used to be one of them. But I also think that that would change more if people knew there were well written blogs out there which could bring all the relevant information together for them. I for one know my Second Life has been greatly enriched by the increased level of awareness. If you want to see what you’ve been missing out on I suggest you check out today’s post as just an example of the major rumblings that pass so many of us by, but effect our Second lives daily and in very real ways.

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Not that long ago I was complaining about unsolicited spam via Second Life residents… well it seemed very topical and apt that I just came across this story about people receiving a hefty fine for email spamming, under New Zealand law: http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO0812/S00291.htm .

What I’d like to know is how much they actually made from the spamming – and whether the money was made from people paying them to spam, or from people replying to the spam with money (or a mixture of both). I came across a far too cryptic sentence in one of the 4 or so news reports I encountered that said: “Trading under the name “Sancash”, the men are accused of sending more then 2 million unsolicited messages in a three month period last year. In that time, $1.6 million was paid to Lance Atkinson.  He then paid affiliates.” Taken from this version: http://www.3news.co.nz/News/NZ-spammer-hit-with-100000-penalty/tabid/423/articleID/85305/Default.aspx?_cobr=MSN . I’m not sure how to read that, but either way you’re looking at a lot of profit, right?

I will follow the story as it progresses – which it will do considering the other parties who have chosen to take it to court – and will report on it as I hear about it here, because I know I’m not the only one who has had enough of the spam-merchants.

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I don’t watch the news much; the two main times I’d get a meaningful exposure to it would be 6pm when my son’s having his dinner (and I refuse to let him watch the news, especially these days) or having a bath, and 10:30pm when I’m often in bed or getting ready for bed. Tonight, I got to watch the news, and as usual I wish I hadn’t.

I used to follow the news very closely, read it in the newspaper every day and watch each news cast. I can’t do it anymore, and not just because of my mummy duties. I can’t do it because ever since I had my son, every story about a child being abducted, killed or hurt makes my stomach churn and make me want to be sick. It doesn’t take an awful lot to make me cry and those stories as good as guarantee it.

I also can’t do it because if I followed every news cast about terror (such as today’s on Mumbai) I would be a scared and reclusive creature, I’d start living my life differently and worry for my family constantly. I remember the attacks in London that many years ago – my sister was over there at the time. Waiting anxiously for the email that finally got through. Since then she went on to get married and have twins, weird to think what might not have been. Someone who was working for me at the time was best friends with the one person from my country who did die in the London attacks. Her worry, followed by intense grief, shocked us all. I doubt she was ever the same after that. I had to talk to her about suicidal thoughts during work hours – I did my best and I think I helped but I was not properly equipped to play that role.

Tomorrow in SL my international friends will very likely be talking about Mumbai, and I will sit quietly and wait as usual for that conversation to end, before I can get back into the main reason I log into SL everyday – to relax and forget the real world. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s because I care too much. It’s because I feel the pain and grief and I can’t pretend I don’t. So if I don’t get involved when you talk about death, murder, destruction and torture, try not to take it the wrong way: My heart is a fragile thing, I’m just trying to keep it safe.

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