20 New Year’s Resolutions for News, Journalism and Social Media
(Just 20. There can be many, many more.)
1. Avoid use of headlines and writing of tweets that misrepresent and/or oversimplify the content of linked-to articles. Headlines matter as they frame the stories for users.
2. Call racism “racism”.
3. Call sexism “sexism”.
4. Call terrorism “terrorism”, and be consistent in the use of the term regardless of the ethnicity, religion, national origin and ideological motivation(s) of the perpetrator(s).
5. Reduce the spread of graphic photos that serve the interests of the terrorists and clicks more than journalism and the public interest. The choice to not spread is also the exercise of free speech rights.
6. Don’t spread unconfirmed rumors during a time of crisis. That only serves to increase fear, instability and (possibly) life-threatening danger. The same goes for unconfirmed death-toll numbers.
7. Avoid the use of natural disaster terminology (“flood”, “tsunami”, “deluge”, “swarm”) to describe migrants and refugees. These are humans.
8. Call out attempts at phony journalistic “balance” when the issue at hand has no credible/rational/intellectual oppositional argument (like the impact of human activity on global warming).
9. Remind yourself that social media platforms are not “neutral”. They are huge, profit-hungry enterprises. That impacts their decisions.
10. Remind others that boycotting a publisher, or blocking people on Twitter, isn’t censorship. Misuse of the term makes rational debate difficult.
11. Journalism should not treat Feminism as a “special interest” topic. Sexism is real. Women make up the majority of the earth’s human population. Men are in the minority. Feminism is a general interest topic that should be normalized.
12. News organizations that discriminate against women who appear on-screen on the basis of their age and/or appearance are sexist, and perpetuate sexism.
13. Pundits and commentators who appear on air, and are interviewed in print, do not have carte blanche to say anything without push-back. Being labeled an “expert” should not be a green light to bullshit.
14. Diversify commentators beyond the standard group of ex-politicians, military and fellow journalists. Bring in activists, unions, non-profits and well-informed community leaders, and make a concerted effort to have gender balance.
15. Eliminate the use of language created by PR companies to make bad things sound neutral: collateral damage, enhanced interrogation, friendly fire, native advertising, downsizing, etc.
16. Realize that good, vibrant local news is really, really important…and support it.
17. Support Public Service Broadcasting, if it exists where you live. If it disappears, you will miss it.
18. Remember that the popular is also political.
19. Don’t superimpose worldviews. The world extends beyond the US and Europe. What is not dissent in Sweden, for example, may very well be dissent somewhere else. How media are used may be very different. And the law. And social norms. And access to the Internet. And access to electricity.
20. Follow a lot of journalists and news organizations diametrically opposed to your politics. Know your opponent.