Image Accuracy in Brave New Media World

Google New Image Search

Step One of Google's New Image Search

One of the most frustrating aspects of today’s new media world is the constant battle for accuracy. In a new media landscape news is flying at mach-speed and if you hesitate for a split second you’ll be in the dustbin of history or worse yet, pummeled by TMZ.com.
But a rush to publish could be your downfall as well like what happened to What’s Trending, after it Tweeted the premature death of Steve Jobs late last year. CBS cut ties with the online video/social media show so fast its hosts are probably still feeling the whiplash. What’s Trending survived but had to do so without CBS’s backing.
So in the age of social lightening fast media how do you verify what you’re saying is actually factual as opposed to rumor mongering? One new arsenal in the search for facts is Google’s Image Search.
Drag and drop a photo or use the handy Chrome plug in which allows you to just hover over image and search using it. We’ve been playing with it and this is what we found:
1. Searching by image finds the image original source.
2. Google also offers “visually similar images,” in its search results.
3. Gives you the option to add text to the image search

The image search is not perfect. It’s visually similar images feature is funny turning up images that are truly non-related only similar in color scheme. While other photos were spot on and its source were found.
Try out Google’s Image Search and tell us what you think about it as a tool to verify content. Also if you have other content verification tools let us know!

 

Journalism Training a Federal Offense? In Egypt it Is!

Egyptian peddler

Egyptian peddler is idle as tourism has plummeted. Arresting foreigners hasn't help the situation.

The media have been buzzing over news released today that Egypt is putting 43 foreigners, including 19 Americans, on trial for “illegally operating in Egypt,” and receiving funds from abroad without permission from Egyptian authorities for their human rights and pro-democracy groups. Facing trial is Sam LaHood, son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, and an employee of the United States-based International Republican Institute. (IRI develops political parties, civic institutions and open elections among other civic-minded activities.)

The American public is up in arms and its government is spitting mad that its revolutionary experiment has grown to bite the hand that feeds it to the tune of $1 billion a year. Congress wants to rescind that billion-dollar gravy train to Egypt. Yet Egypt’s crack down is more than just on NGO’s and civic groups. From a USA today article on the trials:

Among the people referred by Egypt’s Justice Ministry for prosecution are two American and two Egyptian employees of the International Center for Journalists, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit dedicated to raising standards in international journalism. In Egypt, the organization was working to improve citizen journalism by teaching people how to cover news events fairly, responsibly and in context, President Joyce Barnathan said Monday.

So training journalist has become a federal offense in Egypt. One of the first tells of any dictatorship is how they treat the dissemination of media. In Nazi Germany in the early 1930s, Hitler made sure that every media outlet featured his inaccurate, hateful and generally repugnant characterization of the Jewish population. Writing in “The Jewish Enemy: Nazi Propaganda During World War II and the Holocaust,” author Jeff Herf says ordinary Germans could not escape the fact that Hitler and his ilk wanted the complete annihilation of the Jews because of their vice grip on the media.

“If a person could understand German, read a major newspaper, listen to the radio news…and view the ubiquitous Nazi political wall newspapers, he or she would know this basic fact.”

The recent arrest of two ICFJ employees is disturbing. But helping citizens learn how to tell their own stories is worth the risk. Nothing undermines tyranny faster than a free, accurate and truth-seeking press.

How Citizens Get Around State Media Crackdowns

Citizen Journalist Uses IPad to tell the story of massacre in Dogo Nawha

A man in Nigeria uses his iPad to cover a story most international media got wrong

In a blog post the British Broadcasting Company’s General Director Mark Thompson spoke out against what he called

increased levels of intimidation,”

against BBC staff and even family members as part of a crack down on the flow of information emanating from this notoriously closed regime. He went on to explain that last week a sibling of a BBC staff member in Iran was arrested. She was taken to Iran’s notorious Evin Prison, a sort of caged camp for all Iran deems as dissidents located in Tehran. Several political prisoners, religious prisoners and anyone Iran deems as dangerous to the regime are housed in the appalling Iranian prison.

Thompson went on to explain that other relatives of of BBC staff in Iran have been detained, as well as a general pattern of “bullying and harassment,” against BBC including jamming of international television stations such as the BBC Persia TV and hacking Facebook and e-mail accounts.

Thompson said Iran’s media crackdown is “behaviour [sic] that all people who believe in free and independent media should deeply be concerned about.”

Stopping international media is a favorite tactic of totalitarian regimes. The formula is precise and strictly followed:

  • Totalitarian abolishes all independent media
  • Totalitarian establishes state media
  • Totalitarian uses state media to disseminate information

But how to answer such a wide sweeping attack on independent media? One way is to think small! Instead of having a large international media presence behind a closed regime, why not have a lot of individuals reporting on their life behind the curtain?

This happened in March of 2010 in the northern Nigerian rural village of Dogo Nahawa. During that time machete-wielding, and gun-toting extremists swept through a small rural village of Dogo Nahawa and two other communities killing mostly Christians. More than 500 people were killed. The carnage ceased when the state sent in troops but not before women and children were slaughtered.
Residents say the government tried to cover up the massacre by building a mass grave. One citizen wouldn’t stand for that and began contacting international media, through the Internet and other means talking about what happened. The result was an international outcry.

Social media has opened the door to allow ordinary citizens to report on the nefarious actions of their governments. But as we see in China and Iran, the state still controls Internet networks and can shut down Twitter or Facebook, Internet portals and e-mail accounts whenever it wants.

So how do citizens get around their government’s attempts to thwart their communication to the outside world? This article on Mashable.com has some nifty ways to circumvent government’s media shutdowns, including:

  • Use of third-party apps such as HootSuite, Tweet Deck, Blackberry for Twitter. If you’re already have these accounts on a smartphone you could Tweet directly through their servers and not through the state’s.
  • Using computer proxy sites is very popular. Such sites as Proxy-Service.de allow users to access the Internet when their country’s Internet is blocked or out. Proxy servers hide your IP address making your communications anonymous so to speak and allow to circumvent regional restrictions on Internet use. Read more here.
  • You can also get around restrictions with downloaded software like Tor that allows you to hide the data transmitted from your machine. It’s free and many people have used it. Though not quite sure how it works if the entire country’s Internet is shut down.

Note none of these will work if the Internet is completely shut down as it was done in January 2012 in Egypt. But mobile technologies may serve as an alternative provided that the government doesn’t shut down cell phone service.

We’re Back: A Lesson in Collaboration

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Ipeja Street, Lagos, Nigeria

Fuel strike rids Lagos of road-clogging traffic

Well, we took quite a vacation over the holiday season but we’re back with a boatload of energy and ideas. If you’ve been following this blog you know that we are on the verge of launching our website. We’re lining up training clients right now. But last month we did some trial runs with our friends in Nigeria.

Last week, Nigerian President Jonathan Goodluck unleashed a firestorm in Africa’s most populous country when he announced the removal of fuel subsidies that kept fuel prices in Nigeria artificially low. Though Nigeria is Africa’s largest exporter of oil, the country’s oil refineries are mostly inoperable so it imports most of its fuel from outside. In the past the government subsidized the high cost of these fuel imports to help Nigerians who on average make less than $6 a day.

But the fuel subsidy took up about one-quarter of the GDP and President Goodluck wanted to divert that money to building Nigeria’s notoriously dilapidated infrastructure. The removal of the fuel subsidy didn’t go over well and millions of Nigerians – mostly union workers – took to the streets to protest, burning President Goodluck in effigy and in some instances burning tires and destroying property. More than 13 people died during the week of strike protests and domestic airline traffic was completely halted while international travel was interrupted.

Our team had to scramble to get out of Lagos before it descended into chaos. But not before we join with our Nigerian brothers and did a story for a international newspaper.

It was quite the experience going out with “David,” our Lagos guide who agreed to drive us around while we interviewed people about the fuel strike. We thought at first he would serve as a local translator and guide us through the protesting workers, ensuring our safety. But David turned out to be quite the journalist. Asking questions of people on the street and even coaxing reluctant sources into to talking on the record.

It was illuminating to stand side by side with David and see how quickly he picked up the desire to give his Nigerian countrymen a microphone to the world.

“Don’t you want to tell the world what you think,” he asked a man talking with his friends at a local bus stop. “You’re talking with them why not talk to us so that we can tell the world what you think…”

David did not agree with the fuel subsidy removal and we had to discuss with him about getting differing opinions, talking to people who did agree. He seemed not thoroughly convinced.

“They don’t speak for the majority of the people,” he protested.

“Yes, but that doesn’t mean their opinion isn’t valuable,” we shot back.

In the end we got an amazing story and we did it together.

This experience shows how important it is to work side by side with citizen journalist. To be able to have these kind of discussions on the fly and continue on with the work.

The experience in Lagos says an instructor/trainee story field trip to complete a story is a must addition for our training program. It was quite fun.

You Don’t Know What You Got ‘Til It’s Gone

Imagine if you woke up tomorrow morning and all 100 newsroom staffers of CNN Atlanta were gone, vanished like the rapture had come early? Pile on the global news network’s 37 bureaus, poof! Gone, never to be seen again.Add Anderson Cooper and all other CNN anchors with special shows. Again disappeared, no one knows where. How might your view of the world be affected? As Joni Mitchell so sweetly, but knowingly sang, “Don’t it always seem to go, you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone!”

And if we’re not careful we’ll be like the citizens who live in such countries as Iran, Turkey, Eritrea Burma or China who know what truth becomes when there isn’t a free and independent media and journalists keep getting jailed. These countries are the top offenders around the world, noted in the annual 2011 Prison Census, an accounting of all the journalist jailed throughout the world from the Committee to Protect Journalists.

According to the CPJ’s 2011 analysis 179 journalists have been jailed in the last year, what they say is a 15-year high.
The worst offenders are:

  • Iran – 42 journalists jailed
  • Eritrea – 28 journalists jailed
  • China – 27 journalists jailed
  • Burma – 12 journalists jailed

According to the study these journalists are often arrested but never charged, are taken to “secret prisons,” and are treated more as enemies to the totalitarian regimes than as professionals honing their craft.

They include journalists such as:Ne Min (aka Win Shwe) a freelance reporter for BBC who was sentenced to 14 years in prison for spreading false news and rumors to the BBC to fan further disturbances in the country” and “possession of documents including anti-government literature, which he planned to send to the BBC…

Nedim Sener – a Turkish columnist for the Turkish daily Posta, was imprisoned in March 2011 on charges he was aiding an anti-government group. But according to CPJ Şener, who wrote two book son the murder of fellow Turkish journalist Hrant Dink, feels he is being punished for looking into the Dink case.

There are many around the globe who complain about the media, who shout to the heavens about their in accuracy, corporate strings and alliances as well as their elitist and various political biases. But with the those who risk all to tell the truth, especially the 179 jailed journalists mentioned on CPJ’s list, the liberty of every one of us disappear.

The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure.” Thomas Jefferson, top author of the U.S. Declaration of Independence

Putting the Citizen Back in Journalism

The recent plaintiff award against self-described “investigative blogger,” Crystal Cox has stirred a hornets nest.
If you’re not up on the status of the blogsphere and the healthy (though unfounded) fear professional media organizations have of this group of new content producers then you’ve probably missed the hoopla.

Here’s a synopsis:
Crystal Cox began a series of blog posts about a Oregon finance company. In the post that seemed to have gotten her trouble, she called one of the company’s principals a thug, thief and a liar.

As Cox found out, those words became fighting words as the financial company promptly filed a civil suit against her in court, alleging defamation. Though the court case was a culmination of three years of repeated damaging postings against the Oregon firm.

The judge, though throwing out a bunch of blog posts, centered on the one highlighted above. Cox refused to name the source of her opinion about thuggery, thievery and lying as it related to Obsidian Finance and therefore she couldn’t prove she was innocent of defamation. As anyone who has taken a media law class knows, the only defense to such laws as libel and defamation is evidential truth.

Cox tried to use Oregon’s media shield law that protects journalists from divulging sources allowing their claim of truth to stand. As the fact that 40 different states each have their own shield laws, tells you – there is no federal constitution basis for such laws, rather they are created by states to ensure the free flow of information isn’t handicapped by the threat of punishment for those who reveal that information to reporters. The shield laws, shield journalists as defined by the state, from divulging sources – it does not protect them from litigation or judgements.

There are those who are seizing upon the judge’s assertion that she was not a journalist and therefore couldn’t use the Oregon’s shield law to protect her source. Endless comments have abounded from outrage that the judge overstepped his bounds to terror that freedom of speech was being impugned. (Read this Forbes piece about Cox trying to sell her PR services to the very firm she disparaged and you will find she’s no journalist…)

But the lesson in all of this is – when you write something negative as fact about a person you must be prepared to defend those statements. This goes for bloggers, journalists, local homeless man whoever, unless the statement is so outrageous that it could not be rationally determined as being true. See Larry Flynt. Journalists have no special protection when it comes to the law.

Shield laws protect journalists from sharing the source of their stories but they do not protect journalist for lying or gathering news by criminal means. If you don’t think so see the $10 million judgement against mainstream newspaper Cincinnati Enquirer for its 18-day investigative series about Chiquita Banana Industries. There’s little dispute that the story provided accurate information, just that the reporter obtained that information by criminal means. He was arrested and convicted and the Enquirer paid Chiquita and retracted the entire story before ever getting sued.

Journalist is not some invisible superpower cape that protects you from the law that ordinary citizens must follow. It didn’t matter whether Cox was labeled a journalist or a stay-at-home mom, both are afforded equal protections under the law, as is Kevin Padrick, the object of Cox’s venom.

Being a journalist doesn’t give you special rights that an ordinary citizen does not enjoy. In fact, our free press laws, are based upon the founding fathers’ support of free speech not of large newspapers.

Citizen journalists do not have to work for the New York Times to produce journalism. They only need training on such things as accurate and fair reporting, ethical source gathering, how to protect their sources and lawfully gaining information. As the Forbes article points out the judge’s decision indeed had a much broader definition of who is a journalist, rather than the narrow definition of who can use the media shield laws. The judge journalist definition:

Defendant fails to bring forth any evidence suggestive of her status as a journalist. For
example, there is no evidence of (1) any education in journalism; (2) any credentials or proof of
any affiliation with any recognized news entity; (3) proof of adherence to journalistic standards
such as editing, fact-checking, or disclosures of conflicts of interest; (4) keeping notes of
conversations and interviews conducted; (5) mutual understanding or agreement of
confidentiality between the defendant and his/her sources; (6) creation of an independent product
rather than assembling writings and postings of others; or (7) contacting “the other side” to get
both sides of a story. Without evidence of this nature, defendant is not “media.”

As the judge suggests – it takes journalism knowledge to produce journalism. You can’t use media laws to protect you when you do not adhere to media practices to produce your news.

At World Media Now we not only train citizens on how to write great stories but also how to gather those stories in a fair and ethical way that meets journalism standards. We teach them about media law – in their home country and the United States, and other ethical considerations to help them write stories that are balanced, accurate and fair but most of all true. No matter what country you live in the truth is a better defense than almost any other factor.

Do you care about global news?

World Media Now is conducting a little market research. Thanks to our generous friends at SurveyGold we’ve been able to create a basic survey to glean how important global online news is important to the general public.

Please spread the world about the survey. You can take the survey here. Your help in passing this survey to your networks is greatly appreciated!
Go to the survey

Contemplating Citizen Journalism

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Contemplating Citizen Journalism

Photo by Ovetta Sampson

In the last couple of years the world map has changed dramatically. Regimes were toppled, dictators killed and whole regions emerged transformed. But few of us would have gleaned the dirty details of democracy creation without the courageous work of ordinary citizens.

From their blogs, Tweets, Facebook pages, YouTube Videos and UStream broadcasts, the world’s citizens augmented the the world media with their dispatches from their Internet cafes, mobile makeshift newsrooms and basement command centers.

Layla Revis, VP of digital influence at Ogilvy PR Worldwide, opines on the significance of the rise of the citizen journalist in her recent post  “How Citizen Journalism is Reshaping Media and Democracy.”

The citizen journalist provides invaluable information that can democratize media, as well as nations,

She also highlights one of the most salient trends to come out of all this new media:

As traditional newsrooms become more constrained by time and resources, the advent of user-generated content on the web can only strengthen journalism.

Whether media professionals like it or not, citizens are leveraging emerging technologies to tell their story to each other and the world. To be honest most of the news curated online comes from the major media networks and newspapers. But increasingly non-traditional news sources such as TMZ.com and the Twitter-fueled Breakingnews.com are breaking news daily beating most other major news outlets.

As a friend once told me, “I could care less who is giving me the news as much as I care about the content they’re providing. As long as its accurate and tells me what I want to know, who cares if it comes from the New York Times.”

The online explosion of media content has eroded some of the trust in big media as people can now see behind the curtain.  No longer is the Associated Press or Reuters the only one with access to a photo in some far-flung land that’s having a crisis. Now millions of images of that same incident is being broadcasts around the world through the magic of cell phones and iPads. Mainstream news media are not the only ones spoon feeding our news. The news, once a complicated dish served  by only a few pampered chefs, is now a communal smorgasbord prepared by everyone in the kitchen.

I agree with Revis in her assessment that

Citizen journalism, on the other hand, allows marginalized people to reclaim their voices, to tell their otherwise silenced stories firsthand.

To me this transformation of media power, on the whole is a good thing. As a journalist who has traveled to more than 30 countries it always struck me that I was missing most of the story.

Sure, I was thorough, diligent, careful, ethical and curious. But no matter how long I was in a region, no matter how well, or unwell I spoke the language, I never knew more than the wonderful and beautiful people who were my guides or translating for me. Yet they were not writers and I was. But there’s only one of me.

I remember being in crowded, industrial neighborhood just north of Cairo. The people there had just been attacked. I was just there to see some friends but when they found out I was a writer they swarmed me. Over and over the people tugged my shirt, pulled my arm, entreating me to listen to them. They wanted their story told. They wanted people in America to know what had happened to them – not them as a collective group of Egyptian but them as the “farmer,” the “bricklayer,” the minister and the “garbage truck driver.” Their stories were compelling, heartbreaking and hopeful and they needed to be told. Alas, there is only one of me.

I began thinking…if there was a way to teach these eager women, men and youth what I learned, just the basics of telling stories what a powerful agent for change that would be.

Instead of looking upon citizen journalists as competition, the WMN journalists who are instructors see them as fellow storytellers. We embrace their passion to tell the globe about their world. WMN exists to empower would-be citizen journalists, providing them the practical, ethical and creative strategies to create compelling content.

No one wants a world filled with bad, inaccurate and biased news. World Media Now exists to ensure that doesn’t happen. Supporting citizen journalists by sharing known journalism truths can only help the world change for the better. We’re so excited to be apart of the changing media landscape.

What about you? Do you think the emerging citizen journalist trend is good or bad or are you neutral? Is more news good news or too much?

Nothing Beats Boots on the Ground

Ryan Boyette and his wife Jazira in Sudan

Ryan and wife Jariza, (c) New York Times


To understand why World Media Now exists you have to read the story of people like Ryan Boyette.
Ryan was a good-hearted soul who went to Sudan on a humanitarian mission with Samaritan’s Purse and never came home. Thankfully, Ryan is fine, newly married and despite dodging the occasional aerial bombing and bullets of one of the most dangerous places on earth – the Sudanese Nuba Mountain range – he’s living a normal missionary life. We’re featuring Ryan and his wife Jazira because they represent the type of people with which World Media Now will work.
In “The Man Who Stayed Behind,” , New York Times Op-Ed Columnist Nicholas D. Kristoff sings Ryan’s praises for staying behind when most aid workers and missionaries had evacuated from the Sudan region because of the violence. And we sure want to pat Ryan on the back as well. But another reason why Ryan and his wife Jazira are extremely important is that they are providing valuable information on what’s going on in the Sudan that not even the New York Times with all its largess can obtain. In fact, it is the closely held networks of hard-working non-profits that news about Sudan, Egypt, Colombia and several other countries is getting out.
Writing in the New York Times Kristoff says Ryan works with 15 people to gather information – photos, videos and documenting atrocities – and then disseminates that information to advocacy NGO’s who focus on the Sudan.

“He’s irreplaceable,” said Jonathan Hutson of the Enough Project. “There’s no substitute for someone on the ground.”

World Media Now hopes to create more irreplaceable citizen journalists like the folks working with Ryan. We aim to be a megaphone for them to tell their stories so others may understand the issues they face and help them to change the world.