Know thy TV

“TV news content remains both opaque and ephemeral. TV news networks make their content available online generally, but viewers are at their mercy when searching for particular clips, sharing such information elsewhere, or providing structured datasets to help inform research.”

Throughout 2017, we’ve spent a lot of time thinking, researching, writing, and talking about how disinformation flows online, about filter bubbles and fact-checking, transparency for news organizations, and other important pieces of the puzzle about how the internet has changed the way so many of us consume and understand information.

But there’s been far too little attention paid to an older form of communication that still has deep influence in our democracy: that old-fashioned thing known as the television, specifically, TV news.

Why? Not because TV news networks, including Fox, MSNBC, and CNN, don’t have influence, but rather because television is difficult to study. Informed voices have urged Facebook to release its data to fact-checkers and others working to improve the quality of news shared online. But TV news content remains both opaque and ephemeral. TV news networks make their content available online generally, but viewers are at their mercy when searching for particular clips, sharing such information elsewhere, or providing structured datasets to help inform research. If a network goes defunct, like Al Jazeera America did, we don’t have any guarantee that material will be preserved.

Enter the Internet Archive, whose mission is to provide universal access to all knowledge. Most journalists know us for the Wayback Machine, which has preserved more than 308 billion webpages online. But the Internet Archive is also home to the TV News Archive, whose collection includes more than 1.4 million TV news shows, searchable by closed captions. We are working hard with partner organizations, with journalists, and with researchers, from Duke Reporters Lab to PolitiFact, from Stanford University to startups like Matroid and Joostware, to turn our archives into data. We are applying machine learning to generate structured data in increasingly sophisticated ways, so that ultimately it will be possible not just to search captions for TV news, but also faces, talking points, identify who is speaking, and more.

For example, in 2016 we launched the Political TV Ad Archive, which used an open source audio fingerprinting tool we called the Duplitron to track political ad airings across key media markets. We fed this information to our fact-checking and journalism partners, who mined it to report on the 2016 elections.

In 2017, we developed the Trump, congressional, and executive branch archives, curated collections of clips by key political and administration figures that can searched by keywords and phrases. We also created Face-o-Matic, which tracks the faces as shown on cable TV news of President Donald Trump and the four top congressional leaders, and Third Eye, which extracts chyrons, or the lower thirds of TV screens, and turns them into downloadable data ready for analysis. The New York Times editorial page, for example, used Third Eye to track how cable news networks differed in their coverage of key indictments in the Russia investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller.

In 2018, we plan to take even greater strides in helping us understand ourselves through TV news. “Who Said What,” by Joostware and “Contextubot,” by Bad Idea Factory, two of the winners of the Knight Foundation’s (in partnership with the Democracy Fund and the Rita Allen Foundation) call for projects to combat misinformation, rely on the TV News Archive to fuel their projects. We’re working with the Duke Reporters Lab on its Tech & Check project to help automate the workflow for fact-checkers. And we’re developing new partnerships with institutions like Stanford University to develop new ways to turn our TV News Archive into data.

We’re talking to media literacy educators about deploying TV News Archive materials into curricula. And in this age of media manipulation, we are exploring ways that we can authenticate TV news clips, so the viewer knows they have not been altered. Finally, we’re expanding our collection of TV beyond national borders, because understanding how others in the world view us, as well as how we view them, will be crucial in the years to come.

Even in 2018, in the era of tablets and phones and Twitter and Facebook and Instagram, TV still affects us all. Knowing our TV is crucial to understanding ourselves.

Nancy Watzman is managing editor of the Internet Archive’s TV News Archive.

Emma Carew Grovum   Newsroom culture becomes a priority

Mariana Moura Santos   Think local, act global

Molly de Aguiar   Good journalism won’t be enough

Charo Henríquez   Training is an investment, not an expense

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   Women of color will reclaim and monetize our time

Rodney Benson   Better, less read, and less trusted

Brian Lam   Sketchy ethics around product reviews

Kim Fox   Audience teams diversify their approach

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   The Snapchat scenario and the risk of more closed platforms

Caitria O'Neill   The new court of public opinion

Frédéric Filloux   External forces

Bill Keller   A growing turn to philanthropy

Mike Caulfield   Refactoring media literacy for the networked age

Miguel Castro   The arrival of the impact producer

Tanya Cordrey   Finally, the seeds of radical reinvention

Kawandeep Virdee   Zines had it right all along

Aron Pilhofer   We can’t leave the business to the business side any more

Vanessa K. DeLuca   Women’s voices take center stage

Edward Roussel   Eyes, ears, and brains

Manoush Zomorodi   Self-help as a publishing strategy

Michael Kuntz   The only pivot that might work

Zizi Papacharissi   Women come back

Taylor Lorenz   Social and media will split

Alastair Coote   The year of self-improvement

Jim Moroney   Newspapers have to be good enough for readers to pay for

Nikki Usher   The year of The Washington Post

Mariano Blejman   News games rule

Alan Soon   The rise of start of psychographic, micro-targeted media

Jacqui Cheng   Retailers move into content

Renée Kaplan   The year of quiet adjustments (shhh)

Kinsey Wilson   Facebook and Google: Help out or pay up

Ray Soto   VR reaches the next level

David Skok   Finding an information-life balance

Borja Echevarría   TV goes digital, digital goes TV

Claire Wardle   Disinformation gets worse

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   Skepticism and narcissism

Rubina Madan Fillion   Unlocking the potential of AI

Richard J. Tofel   The platforms’ power demands more reporters’ attention

Marcela Donini and Thiago Herdy   Collaboration is the way forward for Brazilian journalism

P. Kim Bui   The reckoning is only beginning

Felix Salmon   Covering bitcoin while owning bitcoin

Daniel Trielli   The rich get richer, the poor scramble

Jamie Mottram   From pageviews to t-shirts

Dan Newman   A return to trust

Jessica Parker Gilbert   Design connects storytelling and strategy

Umbreen Bhatti   The trust problem isn’t new

Sam Ford   The year of investing in processes

Burt Herman   Things get real

Ruth Palmer   Risks will grow for news subjects — especially minorities

Justin Kosslyn   The year journalists become digital security experts

Julia Beizer   A longer view on the pivot

Juliette De Maeyer   A responsible press criticism

Ståle Grut   Reclaiming audience interaction from social networks

Mandy Velez   texting is lit rn, fam

Christopher Meighan   Passive partnership is in the rearview

Paul Ford   Go global

Sydette Harry   Listen to your corner and watch for the hook

Jake Levine   The return to now

Errin Haines Whack   At the ballot, it’s time to count black women

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Seeking trust in fragmented spaces

Rodney Gibbs   Tech workers turn to journalism

Mary Walter-Brown   Show a little vulnerability

Cindy Royal   Your journalism curriculum is obsolete

Adam Thomas   Sharing is caring: The year of the mentor

Joanne Lipman   Journalists inventing revenue streams

Francesco Marconi   The year of machine-to-machine journalism

Tracie Powell   The muting of underserved voices

Imaeyen Ibanga   Longform video leads the way

Pia Frey   Address users as individuals

Sue Schardt   Jump the niche

Mario García   Storytelling finally adapts to mobile

Marie Gilot   No assholes allowed

Matt DeRienzo   A recession, then a collapse

Jesse Holcomb   Information disorder, coming to a congressional district near you

Jassim Ahmad   Thriving on change

Tanzina Vega   It’s time for media companies to #PassTheMic

Carrie Brown-Smith   Transparency finally takes off

Hossein Derakhshan   Television has won

Rick Berke   Value is the watchword

Raney Aronson-Rath   Transparency is the antidote to fake news

C.W. Anderson   The social media apocalypse

Nicholas Quah   Stop talking trash about young people

Helen Havlak   Keywords, not publishers, power the world’s biggest feeds

Vivian Schiller   Pivot to tomorrow

José Zamora   Revenue-first journalism

L. Gordon Crovitz   Serving readers over advertisers

Michelle Garcia   Navigating journalistic transparency

Tamar Charney   We get serious about algorithms

Jared Newman   Venture funding and digital news don’t mix

Kathleen McElroy   Building a news video experience native to mobile

Evie Nagy   Pivot to mobile video frustration

Joanne McNeil   Gatekeeping the gatekeepers

Nushin Rashidian   Publishers seek ad dollar alternatives

Jennifer Coogan   The future is female

Emily Goligoski   Looking beyond news for inspiration

Alexios Mantzarlis   Moving fake news research out of the lab

Raju Narisetti   Mirror, mirror on the wall

Usha Sahay   Wallets get opened

Alfred Hermida   Going beyond mobile-first

Andrew Losowsky   The year of resilience

Jennifer Choi   Standing up for us and for each other

Susie Banikarim   R.I.P. Pivot to Video (2017–2017)

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Publishing less to give readers more

Kristen Muller   The year of the voter

An Xiao Mina   Memes and visuals come to the fore

Sarah Marshall   Loyalty as the key performance indicator

Trushar Barot   The Jio-fication of India

Kelsey Proud   No, no, no

Jarrod Dicker   Honesty in advertising

Cristina Wilson   The year of the Instagram Story

Mi-Ai Parrish   Blockchain and trust

Sara M. Watson   Feeds will open up to new user-determined filters

Andrew Haeg   The year journalists become relationship builders

Yvonne Leow   The rise of video messaging

Monika Bauerlein   The firehose of falsehood

Mira Lowe   The year of the local watchdog

Monique Judge   Letting black women tell their own stories

Feli Sánchez   The year for guerrilla user research

Jim Brady   With the people, not just of the people

Rachel Schallom   Better design helps differentiate opinion and news

Laura E. Davis   Writing answers before you know the question

Nicholas Diakopoulos   Fortifying social media from automated inauthenticity

Eric Nuzum   Beyond the narrative arc

Michelle Ferrier   The year of the great reckoning

Corey Johnson   The pro-fact resistance

Pete Brown   Push alerts, personalized

Craig Newmark   Working together toward sustainable solutions

Carlos Martínez de la Serna   The new journalism commons

Lanre Akinola   Making noise is not a strategy

Ariana Tobin   Too tired to tap

Jennifer Brandel and Mónica Guzmán   The editorial meeting of the future

Joyce Barnathan   It will be harder to bury the news

Elizabeth Jensen   Show your work

Doris Truong   Computer vision vs. the Internet vigilantes

Dannagal G. Young   Stop covering politics as a game

Amie Ferris-Rotman   More female reporters abroad (please)

Eric Ulken   The year local publishers get smart(er) about change

Amy Webb   Listen to weak signals

Luke O'Neil   The end is already here

S. Mitra Kalita   The arc of news and audience

Federica Cherubini   The rise of bridge roles in news organizations

Damon Krukowski   Reviving the alt-weekly soul

Alice Antheaume   Are you fluent in AI?

Pablo Boczkowski   The rise of skeptical reading

Hannah Cassius   The year of the echo-chamber escapists

Steve Grove   The midterms are an opportunity

Rachel Davis Mersey   AI, with real smarts

Basile Simon   We need better career paths for news nerds

Will Sommer   The year local media gets conservative

Lucas Graves   From algorithms to institutions

Kyle Ellis   Let’s build our way out of this

Matt Boggie   The intellectual equivalent of the Dead Sea

Sam Sanders   Shine the light on ourselves

Millie Tran and Stine Bauer Dahlberg   (Hint: It’s about your brand)

Nancy Watzman   Know thy TV

Almar Latour   Conquering calm

Corey Ford   The empire strikes back

Andrew Ramsammy   The year ownership mattered

Dheerja Kaur   Fun with subscription products

Lam Thuy Vo   Breaking free from the tyranny of the loudest

Caitlin Thompson   Podcasting models mature and diversify

Niketa Patel   Live journalism comes of age

Matt Thompson   Here come the attention managers

Amy King   Let’s amplify visual voice

Neha Gandhi   Filler killers

Nathalie Malinarich   Peak push

Cory Haik   Suffering from realness, pivoting to impact

Mary Meehan   Real lives are at stake in rural areas

Sally Lehrman   Trust comes first

John Keefe   Scooped by AI

Tim Carmody   Watch out for Spotify

Matt Carlson   Attacks on the press will get worse

Debra Adams Simmons   And a woman shall lead them

Julia B. Chan   Looking for loyalty in all the right places

Heather Bryant   Building the ecosystems for collaboration

Dan Shanoff   You down with OTT? (Yeah, DTC)