Strange media ideas to gain audience


“Stranger Things” is one of the greatest audiovisual phenomena in recent times. The Netflix’s production has hooked a huge mass of audience. Their main characters are known all over the world.

Millie Bobby Brown | Photo by Gage Skidmore

So, mass media, particularly media specialized in cinema, take advantage of it writing reports and news about the TV series. They know that fans will click on it and read it. But sometimes, news media should know where are the boundaries.

Recently, W Magazine, a fashion newspaper, classified Millie Bobby Brown, the 13-year-old actress of Stranger Things, as one of the sexiest TV stars.

People reacted against the publication because of the young age of the actress who plays Eleven.

Probably, W Magazine would never have written this article if Bobby Brown wasn’t part of such a successful series. Despite the fact that this is not a serious publication as could be The New York Times, not anything goes. Media should be careful because the audience has principles and what media write to attract an audience could go against them.

Economics and success shouldn’t be a priority but common sense. Of course, there is no track of the article on the Web anymore.

Other case but totally different was led by a Spanish cinema newspaper, Fotogramas. The newspaper published an article about the machismo in “Stranger Things. This assessment was based on dialogue and scenes that are representing a time, the 1980s, that was sexist. For example, when Barb’s mum asks her husband for permission to talk.

That’s the article:

Most of the comments reacting to the post of the article on Facebook were about the opportunism and how they jumped on the bandwagon of the feminism and the successful “Stranger Things.”

Again, another attempt to please the audience that actually gets the reverse impact.

Media should isolate from fashions and trends and follow their own criteria of what is really important to write about and so, they would achieve a more quality journalism.

The UM watchdog for fraternities


The last issue of The Miami Hurricane published an editorial about the danger of fraternities. The last event that made the newspaper pay attention to fraternities was the death of a Florida State University student Nov. 3 after attending a fraternity party.

An editorial is opinion, so journalists have more freedom to speak about some topics, because they just present their opinion but they base it on facts. The importance of an editorial, though, mostly lies in the point of view.

In this editorial titled “Fraternity culture poses danger to students” in the print version, the staff is aware that it can be accused of “fake news,” so it defends itself before any reaction can show up.

Here you can find the online version of the article:

The editorial staff reveals some examples of games that are played in UM fraternities to take a position opposing them and then to suggest solutions.

As they can’t prove that these games actually happen, so they defend the argument by saying: “Even if these hazing practices only amount to rumors, the fact that they are so widely circulated without any generalized outrage condones and perpetuates such behavior.”

The article ends with a warning that the staff will keep reporting about fraternities, but also looking for sources that back up their point of view or suggest even better solutions.

They are taking the editorial role that they serve in their community seriously, in this case  the UM campus. Journalists have the responsibility to report about the things that are not working in their community and give voice to people that suffer because of these issues. They are called the Fourth Estate and watchdogs because they willingly monitor and report about the actions and inactions of the people in charge.

So, in my opinion, they are doing what they should do, but prematurely. As they say twice that they are aware that this information can be called rumors or fake news. And, at the end of the editorial, they ask readers to contact them with related stories.

This way, the editorial loses some credibility. It would have been easier and more professional if they had identified sources and prepared one or more news stories to back up the editorial. In that manner, they would gain authority to opine about it.

New media: Inform, discuss, educate


In the middle of the huge competition and fight between news media to become the leading newspaper for readers, newspapers offer new services that have been previously unnecessary .

As I pointed in one of my past posts, online newspapers use new tools as Virtual Reality to offer a new experience of the same service. But that’s not enough now.

As a result, The Washington Post tries to differ from the competitors providing a service called “Washington Post Live.” It’s described as “the newsroom’s live journalism platform.” It’s a platform where legitimate voices of different fields discuss the main issues that concern the citizenship.

The service is based on live programs about some contemporary topics, but not necessarily related to breaking news. The procedure to attend is free and just requires a pre-registration. And for those people that cannot attend in person, they can subscribe to receive a notification and watch it streaming.

This open knowledge almost plays a public service role participating in the audience’s education.

If we assume that one of the duties of the news media is to inform the readers about issues that can impact their lives, we can claim that this platform contributes to achieving it. Also, it contributes to the democracy because an informed public serves democracy the best.

Photo by Esther Vargas

For example, the last program was the 8th of November about Cybersecurity: Personal Privacy in a Digital World and the next one will be on Nov. 14 about the transformation of American cities to adapt to demographic, economic and technological changes.

The Washington Post is a sample of how a newspaper without neglecting its main informative priorities, such as breaking news, can cover other important topics that most of the times don’t create break news by themselves, but they’re enough important to be known by the society. And meanwhile, The Post creates a discussion space and empowers every single listener.

The other fieldwork in Tongo Tongo


It has been a month since the killing of four American and five Nigerien soldiers in the village of Tongo Tongo in Nigeria by terrorist groups of the region. The patrol, composed of 30 soldiers, was conducting a routine reconnaissance mission when the soldiers were entrusted other mission. They sought to capture one of the main targets of the U.S., in Niger, a man of the ISIS.

The patrol didn’t find its objective so it headed to the base. On the way, the soldiers were ambushed by a group of approximately 50 people and probably associated with ISIS. There were four victims of the U.S. Army, Sgts. Bryan C. Black, Jeremiah W. Johnson, Dustin M. Wright and La David T. Johnson.

This last death has created controversy because the body of the La David T. Johnson was recovered two days after the attack and a mile away from the crime scene. Also, Donald Trump’s condolences to the widow of the sergeant have been described as insensitive and disrespectful.

The American troops were sent to Niger in 2013 to help French Army to stop the rise of terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda, ISIS or Boko Haram. There are 800 American soldiers assigned to Niger.

The U.S. troops are not permitted direct action against the enemy. So, the Pentagon is investigating if there was any change in the mission entrusted.

While official sources try to clarify everything, a CNN reporter, Arwa Damon, has traveled to Tongo Tongo, to find the truth.

She described the landscape to make it easier to understand how the ambush was held. In her article, she describes her purpose as “looking for answers to the many questions that continue to churn around the attack”. She talked with first-hand sources, another great journalist’s practice.

As she was exposed, she didn’t have enough time to investigate deeper. But everything she told gives us clues of how could be the battle.

While the government could be interested in hiding part of the truth, a great practice of a journalist, as carry out fieldwork and talk with first-hand sources, allows us to know more about the situation in Tongo Tongo.

It’s important that journalists don’t wait in their offices to write stories from just an official statement. Journalists have to be suspect of everything, find out the truth themselves, never confine themselves to official sources and try to have a first-hand story to tell their audience.

Fake stories, enemies of news media


Since Oct. 15, Spain has suffered a wave of fires affecting Galicia’s region. These fires have calcined 35,000 hectares just in Galicia and have killed four people.

The victims were two old women, 80 and 88 years old, who died when they were trying to flee in a van, and two men that were trying to extinguish the fire. The number of deaths in Portugal has risen to 30 people.

Most of the fires were arson attacks. Two people have been arrested as the alleged originators of the fires. The first one, Miguel Angel, accused of setting fire to his farm when he was cooking with a barbecue. The second one, Maria Luisa, who was burning weed in her house.

But the government of Galicia, the Xunta, has qualified these fires as forest terrorism. The Xunta has suspicion that some of the other 146 fires have been started by an organized gang.

In that situation, when a whole country is focused on the issue, there are a large number of impressive photos with more impressive backstories. One of the most popular photos, in this case, has been the photo of a dog carrying a carbonized puppy. It was taken by the photojournalist Salvador Sas for the EFE agency.

The picture flooded social networks and accompanied many of the news media articles about the fire. Everybody knew about this mum dog, Jacki, carrying her own dead puppy. That was the story that many people are sharing. Everything right, so far. The problem occurred when a journalist discovered that the story attached to this photo was fake.

Jacki wasn’t a female and the dead puppy wasn’t his.

This is the article that uncovered the truth.

The owner of Jacki, recognized to the newspaper La Voz de Galicia, that her dog didn’t have descendants and that he was carrying a rabbit to eat, far from the story that was spread.

It is maybe an insignificant story and nothing will change after knowing the gender and the story of this dog. But once again, it is an example that news media publish and broadcast news without verifying. They seem to be following emotional criteria or mirroring everything that leads to success on social networks to attract the attention of an audience. Then, they correct the news en bloc. But it’s too late, the bad practice has been done.

If this has happened at this time, it could happen with other more relevant stories and the consequences affecting the reputation of the news organizations and society’s reliance on them would be far worse.

The day that media took Weinstein down


The news story that has most shocked in Hollywood lately has been coveeage of Harvey Weinstein’s harassment.

It was The New York Times that published an article with statements and letters of women that have been harassed by Weinstein on Oct. 5. Journalists Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor authored the story.

After that, a succession of publications reporting the same crime appeared. For example, Ronan Farrow published in The New Yorker an investigation of 13 sexual harassment instances and three rapes by Harvey Weinstein. The New York Times issued another report with the statement of celebrities, as Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow claimed have been harassed as well.

The question that I wondered was: How had something that has been happening for so long not gone public before? Why does everybody want to speak now?

The answer was easy. As articles about more harassment cases were showing up, also other journalists reported that they tried to publish that information before but they were blocked. In some cases, professional colleagues as Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, were involved.

Thanks to an article, actresses are denouncing Harvey Weinstein, Los Angeles police are investigating Weinstein and the truth has come to light.

Again, we can see the important role that news media play in the world. A newspaper, in this case, The New York Times, could uncover a crime and encourage victims to report it. If it hadn’t happened, as the other articles that were censored, a criminal would be still unpunished, victims muted, the world would ignore the truth, and there could be no justice.

So, that’s why news media have to be independent of external pressures. Because this is the way that they can do their work and function as a “watchdog” in society.

The other battle for independence


Catalonia voted for its independence on Oct. 1. The called “referendum” was held illegally. Independence politicians sought refuge under the made up “right to decide” to accomplish the voting.

After ignoring the orders of the government to not hold the query because it was against the Constitution and disobeying the judgment of the Court, the first Sunday of October everything was ready in Catalonia for the referendum.

The government replied sending hundreds of police officers and Civil Guards. Their only goal was to close peacefully every school where people could vote. Because the local police (Mossos d’Esquadra), under the orders of Catalonia’s government, didn’t obey to Spanish government.

When the polling day was about to start, the Catalonia’s government announced that the requisites changed: Universal suffrage and people could vote with a ballot paper printed at home. The computer system for vote counting failed, because the Spanish government locked the Web site. So, people could vote more than once, because all the control measures were write down the ID number on a sheet. Likewise, people from other parts of Spain with a Spanish ID could vote.

While this fraud was happening, the police were trying to close every polling place. The order was to do it peacefully, but, in some places, independence citizens opposed and the provocations started. The eviction that had to be peaceful became a battle with violence of both sides.

The Catalonia’s government found in this violence an opportunity to give visibility to its referendum and deflect attention from the referendum’s problems. So, they reached their goal and international news media focused on the violence.

National and international news media published photos of individuals wounded by the police, finding them on social media platforms such as Twitter. But soon, other Twitter accounts, started to determine that some photos were fake or didn’t occur on that date.

So, we could see some news media didn’t fact-check the information and the consequences were horrible for the Spanish conflict. For the world, the police was demonized, the Spanish government appeared guilty, the Catalan government was the victim, and people around the world criticized Spaniards.

Days later, other news media revealed how some photos were edited, some of the images of  injured people belonged to 2012 protest march when Mossos d’Esquadra beat demonstrators, and to other conflicts in other places around the world. Other photos were real, but the story behind them was false. Thus, the international opinion started to change again in favor of Spanish government.

In the same conflict, we could see two different practices, one right and one wrong, and how it affects public opinion, even at international level. In journalism, it’s not just about ethics, it’s about having a responsibility with the world and the society.

Some of the corrections that news media have published belong to the Twitter account @malditobulo and here are some examples:

This two wounded are attributed to the police charges during the first day of October.

But this photo is from 2012, in a manifestation of miners.

This other belongs to a manifestation in 2012 in Barcelona, when Mossos d’Esquadra charged against the demonstrators.

In the video, an independence citizen tells how Police has broken her fingers one by one.

Days later, she recognized that she had made up the story. This is one of the stories that media have covered the most.

News and information at what price?


Past weeks, everybody across the world has been paying attention to Hurricane Irma news. The hurricane that has devastated 10 countries and took the lives of 60 people, has attracted the attention of every news media corporation.

Irma has been covered by all the news shows. But these shows, with an enormous competition, look for formulas to fill their programs with attractive content to steal the audience of the competitors.

That’s all right so far. But the issue is that the fight between news media for getting the most impressive coverage has been sometimes irresponsible.  Scenes of reporters risking their lives have been repeated. In the middle of the hurricane and in the most dangerous areas, when the order of the government was to evacuate, there were many reporters reporting live in the middle of the storm for their channel.

That’s unacceptable because of two reasons. First of all, journalists have to be a role model to viewers. And disobeying safety orders of government, such as evacuating a dangerous area, is not exemplary behavior. People will try to imitate them or just underestimate the situation and risk their lives, too.

The second reason is that audience could view a death live. Fortunately, they didn’t. But it wouldn’t be surprising if that had happened, when we have seen reporters near to the sea with great waves, in the street when lot of objects were flying and they could crash into reporters, or when reporters were tied with ropes to prevent them of blowing away.

Television news can be an entertainment show and behaviors contribute to that show, but we need to think where are the limits of what we do as reporters. If the purpose of news media is to inform, I’m sure there are other safer ways to do the job and show the reality to an audience.

Facebook: News for demanding readers


It’s common use Facebook as a newspaper. When some event has just happened, many people open the application looking for breaking news. But Facebook is also used with that purpose because of its huge coverage of all news, particularly the news that newspapers and other media don’t pay attention to.

The last one that I received was an event of a charity concert organized by Un Micro para el Sahara (A Microphone for Sahara). This is a non-profit organization ran by young journalists.

The importance of this example is double, because we receive the information about the Sahara’s situation through Facebook and not from mass media. And because it’s necessary for NGOs to overcome misinformation sometimes found in the news media.

Social media (Photo from Flickr, courtesy of Hazma Butt).

As they exposed on their Facebook site, their goal is “ensure visibility for the helpless situation of the Saharan people that has been forgotten by the mass media.”

So, it’s another kind of journalism, headed by young journalists away from the big news corporations. These journalists are independents with non-commercial interests and they’re aware of the news media’s deficiencies.

Furthermore, they want the money raised to go to buy journalistic tools for support of the journalists’ work for public radio and TV of the Sahara and to organize workshops for them.

We have to think about the journalism that we want and the journalism that we consume, because it’s clear that quality journalism is not about the money and the resources, but about spirit and ability to inform without following political or economic agendas, just the purpose of meeting journalistic values.

So, if we continue to consume the big corporations’ journalism that neglects news that don’t provide them benefits, without trying to change it, we will encourage a form of partial journalism that doesn’t reflect the whole world.

New tools aid reporting of unique events


The solar eclipse that covered the sky of United States last week had total coverage by the news media, not just Americans, but international journalists, too.

The total solar eclipse was the first to cross from the West Coast to the East Coast since 1918. But 1918’s eclipse couldn’t be covered by the news media in the same degree as the Aug. 21 eclipse.

It isn’t just the amount of time and information that news media have devoted to it. It is about the way news media have done it. New technologies have been used by the great news media conglomerates for offering a closer experience to readers. It is not enough to show them the eclipse with a camera. Now, news media offer 360 degree photos that can make the reader feel is in the place where the eclipse is happening without leaving the sofa.

After all, the purpose of journalism is informing and showing the news as well as possible to the audience. Therefore, it’s important that news media stay updated and don’t deny new technologies because they can enhance their work obtaining results never before imagined.

The clearest example is on the CNN web site. CNN has its own section of Virtual Reality and offers the following coverage of the eclipse:

That makes a difference between CNN and other websites and newspapers that don’t offer this service. The reader can find a different and improved experience there.

Next total eclipse will be in July 2019 and it can be viewed in Argentina and Chile. It is not until April 2024 when other total eclipse will cross United States from Texas to Maine. With  virtual reality still developing, who knows what kind of technologies could appear then and how readers could live next eclipse.