Journalists and human rights workers who work with troubling user-generated content as part of their jobs may experience vicarious trauma as a result of handling distressing content. A new research project aims to help by surveying and interviewing such workers and developing a set of best practices for news and humanitarian organizations.
“A lot of research so far has [questioned whether] vicarious trauma is something that exists,” said Dubberley. “We’re starting from the premise that it does exist, and would like to understand what organizations are doing about it, and how people who are using it on a day-to-day basis feel about it.” As head of the Eurovision News Exchange, he said, “I had a team of 20 journalists sourcing content from Syria and the Arab Spring through YouTube and saw them being impacted by it, quite seriously.”
For the purposes of this study, user-generated content is defined as “photos, videos and audio captured by non-professionals that is deemed useful to your organization’s work.”
In the team’s earlier research, it became clear that “there was a real disconnect between the people working every day with UGC and the more senior people who manage them,” said Brown. “Senior people at major news agencies were saying that they didn’t see any difference between the graphic content in UGC, and what they were dealing with in the ’80s, for example — that just because it was on the computer doesn’t make a difference.” But YouTube and, and the “volume of really horrendous images that people are encountering on a day-to-day basis,” have changed things.
“One person said it was very hard having headphones on and hearing mothers crying while burying children, and being kind of immersed in this world through the headphones,” he added. “That was something that impacted her very negatively.”
“Senior managers who cut their teeth in a different time, in different places, in Kosovo and Bosnia and Iraq, [may] feel that what they saw is so traumatic that nothing can be more traumatic, and they downplay the effects of UGC,” said Dubberley. “We’re not saying it’s worse, but we’re not saying it’s easier to deal with. We’re saying it’s different.”
Eyewitness Media Hub hopes to get a minimum of 200 respondents to its survey, which will be available online through September, and will then follow up with about 60 in-person interviews (30 with journalists, 30 with human rights workers). All surveys and interviews will be confidential and anonymous.
Brown outlined the project’s three focus areas:
1. Pre-engagement expectations: Did people go into these professions expecting and being prepared for handling distressing content?
2. Everyday experiences in the job: How frequently are people handling UGC, how does it affect them, and how do they feel about it?
3. Training and support: Are organizations proactive about educating their staff? Are people aware of available support, and do they feel comfortable opening up about the struggles of dealing with UGC?
A final report, published in December, will include best practices for newsrooms and humanitarian organizations whose workers deal with user-generated content.
Solutions journalism calls for reporters not only to point out the problems in stories they’re covering, but also to offer potential resolutions and to highlight other approaches that might work. The network launched in 2012, and so far SJN has worked with more than 40 newsrooms throughout the United States.
In January, SJN published a guide on how to use the solutions journalism approach.
The new report builds on those suggestions by offering a roadmap for editors to convince others to buy into the approach:
We present advice from editors who have made the transition to more solutions-oriented coverage. We offer a few arguments you can use in your newsroom to communicate the distinctive value of solutions journalism. We introduce a ‘starter guide’ for editors who are serious about implementing this practice. We tease out ways your audiences may engage differently with solutions-oriented content. And finally, we take you through a few stories to illustrate the kinds of things editors can consider when reading a piece of solutions journalism.
Editors who had previously worked on solutions stories, for instance, suggested that others broach the prospect of pursuing a solutions-oriented story with a small group first. With a more concentrated team of staffers, it’s easier to explain the solutions process and dispel any misconceptions. Once the first solutions-focused stories are published, it’s easier to get others in the newsroom on board.
Michael Skoler, head of interactive media for Public Radio International, said it can take some time for a newsroom to get on board with solutions journalism:
“The hard part of practicing solutions journalism is that it involves changing a culture, in fact an instinct, among journalists to focus on the problems that need solving and not the solutions that are working. So reporters don’t bring this mindset to their coverage and often have to be reminded to look for solutions rather than problems and conflict.”
The Post is looking to create a database of “supplements” — categorized pieces of text and graphics that help give context around complicated news topics — and add it as a contextual layer across lots of different Post stories.
When you wake up in the morning, what’s the first app you open? Is it a social media app? If so, you’re in good company.
According to the latest quarterly State of Mobile Advertising report from Opera Mediaworks, which bills itself as the “first mobile ad platform built for brands,” the majority of smartphone users in the United States start their day with a social media app and end their day with an app from the entertainment section of the app store.
That’s according to data based on the Opera Mediaworks platform, which the company says reaches 800 million consumers. Its publishing customers include Wired, Vanity Fair, and CBS.
While seeing this might make some editors want to tear out their hair, hold off because not all is lost for news producers. Among users who have downloaded apps classified as News & Information, news apps hold the honor of being the apps to which users are most loyal. According to the study: “This category had the most consistent first and last app of the day usage across the entire month. It also had the smallest relative change in its audience size between morning and evening.”
For app developers wondering how to find an audience, or where they would be able to best monetize their app, the results are split. In the first quarter of 2015, Android overtook iOS for the first time in percentage of revenue earned (47.66 percent of all revenue generated, to accompany its 63.72 percent share of all traffic across apps). Despite this, iOS (which makes up 47.16 percent of all revenue earned and 21.74 percent of all traffic) maintains its lead in monetization potential, or the ratio between impressions and revenue. In this, the iPad continues to be a leader — its share of revenue is 4.5× its share of impressions.
Facebook came out with its Q2 2015 earnings yesterday, and response was generally positive, beating estimates on revenue, though with slightly slower growth. (When your user base is more than one percent of all homo sapiens who have ever lived, in the long tale of human existence, growth naturally tends to slow. Dead men download no apps.)
But I did want to highlight one piece of the earnings call, in which Mark Zuckerberg was asked about his “long-term philosophy around monetization” and, in response, outlined Facebook’s approach to digital advertising. (Ben Thompson also highlighted this in his morning newsletter today; emphasis mine.)
…if you go back to 2006 and 2007, there were a lot of people who were kind of encouraging us to just put banner ads [in Facebook’s News Feed] and kind of inorganic content into the experience. And what we decided was that over the long term, the ads and monetization would perform better if there was an organic interaction between people using the product and businesses.
So instead of focusing on ads first, what we did was we built pages, and we made that free, that way as many businesses as possible could get into the network. And we built Insights to make it so that businesses knew how they were driving business when they used pages for free and could post them to News Feed. And then on top of that whole ecosystem, we then had the opportunity to build what has turned into a News Feed business that we’re really proud of, right. That we think is driving a lot of value and good content for people who are using the platform and helping a lot of businesses find customers and sell their products and grow overall.
It’s obviously worked, since Facebook now earns somewhere between a fifth and a quarter of all mobile advertising revenue in the world, the vast majority of that from News Feed ads.
Potential lessons in there for media companies:
— Go for scale first before you jump into monetization. (See The New York Times’ rollback on NYT Now, turning a paid app into a free one. “We did that in part because we realized that perhaps we went too fast toward monetizing NYT Now and NYT Opinion. Maybe in the future, a better path is to first do audience development and then do monetization.”)
— Build tools that make your value known to your customers — your readers and your advertisers. (That could be analytics packages for those who buy your ads or high-value editorial products for those who look at them.)
— Make your advertising content as organic a part of the user experience as you can. (This is the case, whether you like it or not, for native advertising.)
What can newsrooms do to recruit more people from diverse backgrounds, and encourage more minorities into leadership roles? What opportunities, if any at all, are really out there for aspiring journalists of color to enter the field? What does it feel like — really feel like, on a day-to-day level — to be one of the very few people of color in a media organization? (New data from ASNE released this week found that only about 12 percent of journalists in newspaper newsrooms surveyed were non-white — a number slightly lower than a decade ago — and many corners of the broadcast and online journalism world don’t fare much better.)
A lively discussion on all of the above and more has been taking place on Twitter for the past day and a half, spurred by CNN politics reporter and former New York Times writer Tanzina Vega and other journalists like Gene Demby of NPR’s Code Switch and Latoya Peterson of Fusion. (It’s still going strong: look out for the hashtag #mediadiversity to follow the conversation.)
The outpouring of responses has been a mix of disheartening and inspiring, as journalists shared current statistics on newsroom diversity as well as deeply personal stories of how they struggled to get their first big break into the news business. Here are Vega and Lydia Polgreen of The New York Times:
As of last year, minority groups made up 22.4 percent of television journalists, 13 percent of radio journalists, and 13.34 percent of journalists at daily papers — but account for more than 37 percent of the U.S. population. The problem, as Alex T. Williams points out, is not that minorities aren’t interested, the problem may be in the hiring process: 49 percent of minorities who studied print or broadcasting in college landed a full-time job, compared to 66 percent of white graduates.
The conversation about media diversity on Twitter opens up a window into what remains to make newsrooms more representative of the demographics they serve.
While viewership to Discover channels was significant in the first few days after the portal’s Jan. 27 launch, it has dropped an average of 30 percent to 50 percent since then, according to two people who’ve seen the traffic data. One media firm with a channel on Discover saw its unique views drop from one million to around 700,000 and is trending downward, according to a person close to the media company.
But Digiday’s Lucia Moses reports that a design change has push the traffic back northward:
The messaging app popular among teens launched its Discover feature in January with 11 publishers, but users had to swipe twice to get to their content, making it difficult to, well, discover…It’s in Snapchat’s interest to make the content as viewable as possible now that it’s trying to derive revenue from Discover by running ads in the content, though. So two weeks ago, Snapchat updated the design to make the Discover channels visible in the “Stories” tab, which is just one swipe away from the home screen…
Snapchat is notoriously buttoned-up with the press, and publishers who were part of the Discover launch said they’re under instructions from the app not to share their viewership. But several said they had seen a positive impact. “Our views have doubled,” said one, speaking anonymously.
Should you find yourself wondering the status of industrial production in the U.K., or the status of the housing market, or, for that matter, unemployment rate, the Financial Times has just the tool for you.
This morning, the FT launched The U.K. economy at a glance, a bookmark-friendly dashboard that tells the story of the economy through charts and data. If you’re looking for indicators on GDP growth or currency markets, even construction output, the FT collects it all in one place. Interestingly, the economic dashboard is available to readers outside the FT’s paywall, at least for the time being. The release of the economic dashboard comes a week after Pearson agreed to sell the FT to Japanese publisher Nikkei.
The collection of charts has a similar feel to the old stock tables newspapers used to run in the business section. Even better, the assemblage of data here gets updated automatically, along with links to the sources of data and corresponding FT stories to financial topics.
The app is a good example of ways media companies can build new products around their existing content. It’s likely all the data on the dashboard also has uses in FT stories, like a report from today about the acceleration of GDP growth in the U.K.
The dashboard is the latest in a string of tools released by the FT to increase reader engagement and reach out to new — and maybe more importantly, nonsubscribing — audiences. Products like FastFT and FT Antenna, which was launched last year, are focused on aggregating top stories of interest to FT readers. The company also launched FirstFT a morning email briefing on stories from the FT and others around the web.
If you’re lucky enough to have the right deep-pocketed owner buy your paper and steady it, you’ve won the lottery. If you’re in a town whose paper is owned by the better chains, or committed local ownership, your loss will probably be mitigated. Otherwise, you’re out of luck.
So let’s say you’re a New York–based publication which has just published the words and portraits of 35 women who have accused Bill Cosby of rape — on your cover no less. Then a hacker decides to launch an all-out distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, bringing your servers to their knees. The first reports suggest it’s not even because the hackers object to your story — it’s because one time they went to new York (their preferred capitalization) and got “pranked” and have decided to exact revenge by taking down all Internet entities with the city in the name. Okay. (Though later it will come out that a member of the hacking group knew one of “them females” on the cover.)
That’s the day that New York magazine is having today. Happy Monday everyone. (Also: is this one of those let’s-send-pizza times?)
So what do you do? How do you direct readers to find the piece when you no longer have a website? For New York, it was complicated. First there was the announcement of technical issues:
Our site is experiencing technical difficulties. We are aware of the issue, and working on a fix.
How did this happen? A DDoS attack is when a bunch of computers all target one server in a short span of time. The intent is to overwhelm the server so it’s unable to serve the content requested. The intention is to shut down the site, which is what happened to New York.
According to researcher Molly Sauter, author of last year’s The Coming Swarm: DDOS Actions, Hacktivism, and Civil Disobedience on the Internet, there are a variety of DDoS mitigation tactics available to those targeted. “DDoS attacks come down to the idea that there is too much water in your bucket and you have to get it out.” To do that, says Sauter, a news organization might try to get the water out by essentially creating a giant sponge: “One way is to get as many servers as possible mirroring the content, and soak up the excess traffic.” Private companies like Akamai rent their services for this to companies, though not for cheap. Another method is to try to pinpoint where the traffic is coming from and block it. However, says Sauter, “in the case of a distributed denial of service, the traffic may be coming from machines that are themselves geographically distributed,” making this exceedingly difficult.
DDoS attacks are not particularly hard to launch and require relatively little technical know-how or money to start. One popular (and effective way) to launch an attack is to rent out a bot net for $20 or so — or less on bitcoin. A bot net uses the unwitting power of thousands of compromised machines to launch the requests that make up DDoS attacks. Because they’re relatively unsophisticated, DDoS attacks have become a vector of choice for activists as well as people just looking to “fuck shit up,” says Sauter. While there are no real numbers available on what share of DDoS attacks are launched against news organizations, Sauter says that the attacks in general are getting bigger as the bots are getting bigger.
What can newsrooms hoping to avoid the kind of day that New York is having today do? Unfortunately not much, says Sauter. “This is like someone buying out the entire print run of New York magazine, for the same reason — that they didn’t want anyone to see the cover. Unfortunately, this is a case where some hacker wanted to do something, and unfortunately it coincided with a day when New York magazine wanted to do something bigger.”