In the digital age, speed is key. So when an event is unfolding – say, the crowning of the new Miss America, or a mass shooting in the capital – online communities respond almost instantaneously. The media is never too far behind, often feeding off social media. This past Sunday, the Miss America Pageant crowned Nina Davuluri, its first winner of Indian descent. And while some corners of the Internet cheered, other netizens let loose a torrent of racist tweets, which were featured in a BuzzFeed post. The following day, people on Twitter and various media outlets responded to the Washington Navy Yard shooting by disseminating a picture that turned out to be unrelated to the day’s violence (and was later found to be related to the shooting). Where should media outlets draw the line when publishing material from social media and anonymous comments? For this episode, our special guests include BuzzFeed’s Ryan Broderick, Reddit general manager Erik Martin and Kelly McBride of Poynter. MediaShift’s Mark Glaser will host, along with regulars Monica Guzman of Geekwire and Seattle Times and Andrew Lih of American University.
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Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He is a longtime freelance writer and editor, who has contributed to magazines such as Entertainment Weekly, Wired and Conde Nast Traveler, and websites such as CNET and the Yale Global Forum. He lives in San Francisco with his wife Renee and son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.
Mónica Guzmán is a columnist for the Seattle Times and Northwest tech news site GeekWire and a community strategist for startups and media. She emcees Ignite Seattle, a grab-bag community-fueled speaker series. Mónica was a reporter at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and seattlepi.com, its online-only successor, where she ran the experimental and award-winning Big Blog and drew a community of readers with online conversation and weekly meetups. Follow her on Twitter @moniguzman.
Andrew Lih is a new media journalist and associate professor of journalism at the American University School of Communication. He is the author of “The Wikipedia Revolution” (Hyperion 2009, Aurum UK 2009) and is a noted expert on online collaboration and journalism. He is a veteran of AT&T Bell Laboratories and in 1994 created the first online city guide for New York City (www.ny.com). Follow him on Twitter @fuzheado and buy his book here.
Ryan Broderick joined BuzzFeed in 2012 and is a reporter for the site. In his first role as a community moderator, Ryan helped defend the BuzzFeed comment section from trolls and spammers. Now he works in the chaotic world of breaking news, specializing in the weird and strange. News for Broderick could mean anything from The Most Epic Brand Meltdown On Facebook Ever, The Worst Teenager On Instagram, Photos Of Porn Stars With And Without Their Makeup On, or putting together comprehensive coverage from the scene of a tragedy like The Boston Marathon Explosion at break-neck speed. He was one of the first people to see the “Harlem Shake” dance craze, and put together a BuzzFeed edition in the Manhattan office. Broderick’s eclectic knowledge of the weird and meme-y has been featured on TODAY, Good Morning America, omg! Insider, HLN and even a Japanese talk show.
Involved with Reddit since 2008, general manager Erik Martin has seen Reddit grow to a community of communities with more than 4.7 billion pageviews a month. Named by TIME magazine to their 2012 list of “The 100 Most Influential People in the World”. Martin is also an outspoken supporter of protecting internet freedom and innovation. Prior to joining Reddit, Erik advised on digital strategy for a wide range of film, music, TV and web video companies, including a role as Head of Digital for the independent film/music label Palm Pictures. Before his internet addiction fully took hold, Martin worked as a documentary filmmaker and was a videographer for Improv Everywhere. Originally from Chapel Hill, NC, Erik graduated from Tulane University and lives in NYC.
Kelly McBride has served as a faculty member of the Poynter Institute since 2002, acting as a teacher, writer and expert on media ethics. She is in charge of the Ethics Department and the Reporting, Writing and Editing Department at Poynter. Kelly is also the director of the Sense-Making Project under the Poynter Institute, which analyzes the transformation and values of journalism, as well as the relationship between technology and democracy. Kelly, in tandem with Tom Rosenstiel, co-edited the book The New Ethics of Journalism: Principles for the 21st Century.
1. Miss America slammed on Twitter for being Indian-American
When Nina Davuluri was crowned 2014 Miss America, many viewers turned to Twitter to respond to the choice. While some posts heralded the pick as a victory for minorities, many responded with hateful messages that claimed Davuluri was linked to terrorism. BuzzFeed compiled some of the most vitriolic tweets in a post that received criticism for exaggerating the number of racist tweeters and giving them more mileage. The post was not one-of-a-kind; the Huffington Post previously compiled the most stomach-churning tweets in response to Angelina Jolie’s preventative double mastectomy. What is the responsibility of the media in deciding what parts of public opinion to amplify? How do posts like those of BuzzFeed and the Huffington Post change the conversation around a topic?
2. Reddit decides to close subreddit on DC shooter
When the Boston Marathon became the Boston Bombings last spring, members of the online community Reddit scoured through pictures of the site in search of suspects. The crowdsourced sleuthing incorrectly identified a variety of suspects in a frenzied witch hunt that received widespread criticism. So, when shots rang out in Washington Yard on Monday and redditors began contributing to a subgroup dedicated to finding the shooter, the group was shut down. Reddit’s Erik Martin says the group was not seriously dedicated to finding the shooter, and was more of a parody of the Boston Bombings group. Meanwhile, mainstream media outlets relied on crowdsourcing for a picture, which later turned out to be unrelated to the day’s shootings (and then later was found to be relevant after all). When is crowdsourcing an appropriate tool as news is breaking? How should mainstream media outlets treat material obtained through social media? Did Reddit make the right decision when it closed the subgroup?
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Claire Groden is the podcast intern for PBS Mediashift and a current senior at Dartmouth College. You can follow Claire on Twitter @ClaireGroden.