Nieman Foundation at Harvard
Holding algorithms (and the people behind them) accountable is still tricky, but doable
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Dec. 11, 2008, 8:56 a.m.

Morning Links: December 11, 2008

— If I worked in local TV news, I wouldn’t like the sound of this, from CBS CEO Les Moonves:

The executive also said that in 10 years, CBS may no longer have traditional affiliated TV stations, but could offer its feed straight to cable and satellite operators. For now, however, the network has contracts with local stations that are binding for several years.

Wow. If all the networks went that route, it might be almost as big a blow to local news-gathering capacity as what’s happening to newspapers.

— More results from eyetracking studies — which measure how we read web sites — over at OJR. My colleague Zach pointed out the third image down, the one headlined “Tillman’s widow…” — note how good the web-surfing eye is at avoiding ads. I’d be curious to see similar eyetracking for newspaper reading — just to see how much more the reader engages with ads in print than online.

Svetlana Gladkova points out that the fifth-hottest “what is” search term at Google in 2008 was…“What is RSS?” Maybe there’s hope RSS might sit at the big kids’ table someday soon.

— Newsweek weighs cutting its circulation guarantee by almost 40 percent — allegedly because they want to switch from being a mass-market newsmagazine to a “thought leader” like The Economist. Apparently you can’t lead thoughts without losing subscribers: “To get that ‘thought leader’ position, a million is the sweet spot.”

POSTED     Dec. 11, 2008, 8:56 a.m.
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Holding algorithms (and the people behind them) accountable is still tricky, but doable
“We were able to demystify this black box, this algorithm that had very scary connotations, and break it down into what ended up being a very simple linear model.”
Fill in the blanks: What’s still missing from the study of fake news? (A whole lot.)
A big new report from the Hewlett Foundation pulls together existing research on social media, political polarization, and disinformation to show where we still need to know more.
Google announces a $300M ‘Google News Initiative’ (though this isn’t about giving out grants directly to newsrooms, like it does in Europe)
Also: an easier subscription flow, $10 million for media literacy in U.S. high schools, fact-checking efforts in search around health issues, and more.