Friday, May 13, 2016
Liveblogged Book Review: Blur by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosentiel
Chapter 1 reminds me a lot of SS. Basically, there are six steps in "the way of skeptical knowing". They are:
1. Identify the kind of content
2. Determine if the news is complete
3. Assess sources
4. Assess evidence
5. How do new news models interact with evidence? (Is there an alternative explanation or understanding?)
6. Are we getting what we need?
Ok, so only the first three are like SS. But I guess this is like the summary of the book before we even dive in.
Chapter 2 is a brief history of how we obtained news, and the summary is: this is not new. With every advancement in technology, we gained more access to more types of news. Now, we can get the information we want when we want it, not only when the newspaper comes or when it's the 6pm/9pm/10pm news.
Today, as more and more of our news comes second or third hand, as journalists increasingly are kept at a distance from original sources by communications "managers", and consumers become our own editors and sometimes their own journalists, how do we decide for ourselves whether something is true?
Chapter three starts with the different types of content - "news, propaganda, advertising, publicity, entertainment or raw information." The fact that all these can be mixed reminds me of the Gushcloud hooha, where advertising was made to look like opinion. That's why we have to learn how to discern what is what.
The book also talks about four types of journalism:
1. Verification - the traditional model, focusing on accuracy and context.
2. Assertion - a model that values immediacy and volume.
3. Affirmation - a media based on affirming the beliefs of its audience
4. Interest-group - groups with a vested interest in something (like lobby groups, companies, etc) putting out something that looks and sounds like news, but probably just furthers their own agenda.
By the way, social networks and the likes are forms of communication, not models of content.
How to tell what is what? For verification, look for stories that have multiple sources, that will admit what they do or do not know. Assertion is more or less based on the flow of information. The affirmation model reminds me a lot of what The Filter Bubble says, and well, I think we all know what special interest journalism is. It's just hard to identify it.
Chapter 4 opens with Crewdson, who sounds like an awesome journalist, I kinda want to read some of his stuff now.
So, how do we know if the story is complete?
Well, the basic news story is to have the facts which raise questions.
And since we're talking about facts, if you see fragments of facts but not the whole picture, that's the assertion model. If you see cherry picked facts plus lots of speculation and opinion, it's probably the affirmation model. The affirmation model also tends to use rhetorical questions.
The word news implies things are me and from all around - North, East, West, South; the points on a compass spell out the word news.
This chapter also talks about the types of stories there are - explanatory, authentication, etc.
Chapter 5 is on sources. The central question here is "what are the sources and why should I believe them?" The types of sources mentioned are:
- sourceless: perhaps a public event that everyone can see. This doesn't need special sourcing
- the journalist as witness
- the journalist as credentialed expert
- firsthand accounts
There is, however, the problem of time. Memory can be manipulated, even when the witness doesn't recognise it. That's why corroboration is important.
Other sources include participants (who are not witnesses), expert sources (who may or may not be biased) and of course, the anonymous source.
By the way, beware buzzwords, which can indicate a story is biased in someway, and is basically used to subtly try and persuade you to think a certain way.
Chapter 6 is on "Evidence and the Journalism of Verification". The question here is "What evidence is present, and how was it tested or vetted?" I guess this is when we start using our SS skills 😂
The chapter uses the Sago case and the alleged John McCain affair to talk about why we need to verify evidence. And how do we check? We should expect a few things:
1. Enough evidence
2. Disproved evidence to have had a fair hearing
3. Acknowledgement of the unknown
4. Coverage to continue
Chapter 7 can be summed as "you really need to make sure the facts are verified and in context". It's basically an elaboration of Chapter 6, with a lot more examples and methods on how you can try to verify the evidence presented.
Chapter 8 asks, "do I know what I need to know?". The first half of the chapter talks more about the different methods that journalists use to discover a story, and the second half is on what we can do to "fulfil our larger responsibilities as news consumers"
Methods include: can I explain this to someone, using questions to test if you have the whole picture, making a list, and others.
But again, I'm reminded of The Filter Bubble. If news is increasing personalised to us, there's an excellent chance that we don't even know what we're missing, and if we don't know that we're ignorant, how can we evaluate the extent of our ignorance?
The last chapter, chapter 9, is titled "What we need from the 'Next Journalism' " It's more for journalists, and talks about the role of the press and what they need to change. Some of the stuff seems to conflict with what I read in The Filter Bubble, so I will have to check that out. (Note to self: check out State of the Media)
And then it's the epilogue and appendix, which doesn't seem to over anything new. It's more of a summary of the book.
Overall, this was an excellent read. And if you read this, I totally suggest reading The Filter Bubble before or after, because both books cover the question of what and how we know, but from two totally different angles.