1 posts categorized "Media Literacy & Spin"

November 20, 2008

News, Opinion or Spin - Can Technology Help You "Take Back the Truth?"

It's no surprise that according to a recent study by the The Pew Center, 66% of digital news users, who are often the heaviest consumers of news overall, distrust the mainstream media believing it to be one-sided.  But they , 67% of them anyway, want unbiased news and not just the talking opinion bobble-heads of many a cable news channel commenting on what "unnamed sources" have allegedly said to their next door neighbors' dog.  But in a world of 24/7 broadcast news mills, tabloid journalism, and bloggers who appear to suffer from OCD with little interest for fact-checking,  how does one get at "the truth" or, if not that, at least the facts?

Two new endeavors have recently launched in response to this scenario: a new 6 part series on IFC called "The Media Project" hosted by former MTV reporter Gideon Yago, and a  Seattle based tech startup, SpinSpotter, launched by two veteran entrepreneurs Todd Herman and John Atcheson.

"The Media Project" is designed to provide perspective and a baseline for discussion on a variety of issues that have an impact on accurate, balanced reporting from the leading news outlets. Reporting on what? Politics, war, the environment, business are obvious answers - but consider more broadly perhaps about the brand you or your agency represent and how it is covered.  Stories that are mostly regurgitation of press releases may not be thought of traditionally as "spin", but what kind of "news value" is there in source after source creating stories with most of the content directly pulled from a well-crafted release?

"The average American spends 70 percent of their waking day consuming, or exposed to, some form of media, but goes on autopilot when it comes to thinking about the message behind the media," said Evan Shapiro, president of IFC.

SpinSpotter, which launched its early beta offering in September at The Demo Conference (see onstage demo), is a partner with IFC in the project, providing the early stage technology (a browser toolbar plug-in currently) that enables users to see, share and create conversation about the media spin and inaccuracy that they find around their passion interest areas in online media - be it from a global news conglomerate or the blogger down the street.

SpinSpotter pulls its unique approach from both the crowd sourcing models of companies such as Digg and the world of scary-math algorithms of Google to create a technology that learns from human beings (citizen editors) what spin looks like in the news based on a predetermined rule set from the world of journalism monitored by an advisory board, and then identify it in other places online.

So if you don’t trust the news media, what are your options? Do you ignore it all or just listen to those with your bias? Or might "The Media Project" provide the food for thought, and SpinSpotter the toolset and community to kick start the reboot of media literacy?

For more coverage on IFC's "The Media Project."

For a New York Times update on SpinSpotter.

For a SpinSpotter in action demo.

Disclosure: I consult/advise SpinSpotter on occasion in addition to producing their sneak video above. In general, I think all efforts at media literacy and exposing spin = good stuff.


Liz Gebhardt

  • © Amanda Jones
    Digital and traditional (live & broadcast) media/ marketing strategist and producer living at the intersection of Web meets (live) World. More than two decades of experience in building media and technology businesses, content programming and distribution, brand stories and integrated communications campaigns.

    Believes that strategy is all talk unless it can be executed in a way that delivers on both the creative and business promises. Embraces the role of navigator of the uncharted path vs. passenger along the known road.