Mounting criticism for enabling the spread of fake news during the 2016 presidential campaign has pressured Google, Twitter and Facebook and others to get involved in dispelling and discrediting fake stories.
An April 6 Facebook blog outlined three approaches the platform would use to halt the spread of misinformation and false news:
- disrupting economic incentives because most false news is financially motivated;
- building new products to curb the spread of false news; and
- helping people make more informed decisions when they encounter false news.
Like the last bullet point, Google is also tapping into its user base to identify and flag fake news stories. Wired reports, “the company will roll out an expanded feedback form for reporting inappropriate snippets, search results, and autocomplete suggestions.” Additionally, the company has made tweaks to its algorithm to remove or hide blatantly fake stories from appearing at the top if its searches. On some of the more popular conspiracy theories, like 9/11 being an inside job, the platform includes snippets from credible sources debasing some of the wilder claims.
The Guardian reports that Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales will create a new community combining journalists with volunteer contributors to combat the fake news problem. The crowdfunded platform, titled Wikitribune, was inspired by Kelly Anne Conway’s remarks about ‘alternative facts’ and will initially be UK-centric.
Twitter is well known for enabling legions of bots to increase the spread and reach of fake news stories, and is used by foreign actors including Russia and ISIS to do the same. Twitter is also used by the President of the United States to share misinformation and doublespeak in an effort to confuse people or shift media attention from the misdeeds of his administration. The platform has been known to ban extremists like Charles Johnson that spread hateful content.
The most intentional and effective disinformation threat comes from foreign governments like Russia, a country with a tight grip over its own broadcast media and a history of using propaganda for dubious means.
The New York Times reports that Russia hosts massive buildings full of government-funded internet trolls that exist solely to sow confusion in democratic societies. Articles from reputable media sources have demonstrated Russia’s strategy to use soft power to influence its political ambitions in regions including: the Baltic states, the Balkans, Britain, Ukraine, The United States, The Netherlands, Sweden, France, Germany and recently fears have grown of interference in Mexico.
Western democracies have been noticeably slow to identify the source of these problems, and most efforts have been anemic. Addressing fake news is challenging in that it comes from multiple sources and for different reasons. Organizations including EU Mythbusters, EU East Stratcom Task Force, NATO Stratcom, and stopfake.org exist to challenge politically-funded fake news organizations directly, but often tackle the exciting headlines and sophisticated efforts of their adversaries with a dull, academic approach. The existing network of fake news capabilities is defeating by comparison.
The Fake News Business
Hostile foreign governments are not the only curators of fake content. Enterprising capitalists from every region of the world and every segment of the political spectrum have learned they can drive users to their websites with salacious, hyperbolic and fanatical (mostly political) headlines and content. Reputable media organizations uncovered how fake news creators were able to use social platforms to spread fictional content to rile up a base of gullible web users, and social media accounts offered the perfect medium to spread these stories. These visits lead to clicks on advertisements leading to a monetary incentive to create more fake news.
Inside a Fake News Sausage Factory: ‘This Is All About Income’:
This is how Facebook’s fake-news writers make money:
How to Stop the Spread of Fake News
A more concerted effort between Western businesses, governments and academics will strengthen the defense and help nullify the negative effects of misinformation campaigns, but a more proactive effort is needed to keep bad actors from continuing to dilute faith in democracy through propaganda and disinformation.
Sadly, with its current administration lacking all credibility due to countless examples of Russian interference and blatant lies emanating from the executive office, the United States government is not in a position to take a leadership role in this effort. But that doesn’t mean its citizens cannot be informed, and I strongly encourage everyone to explore this topic (using credible sources, of course).
I’ll end this blog with 10 tips Facebook offered to help its users identify fake news in their feeds. This list can be applicable to most media sources.
- Be skeptical of headlines. False news stories often have catchy headlines in all caps with exclamation points. If shocking claims in the headline sound unbelievable, they probably are.
- Look closely at the URL. A phony or look-alike URL may be a warning sign of false news. Many false news sites mimic authentic news sources by making small changes to the URL. You can go to the site to compare the URL to established sources.
- Investigate the source. Ensure that the story is written by a source that you trust with a reputation for accuracy. If the story comes from an unfamiliar organization, check their “About” section to learn more.
- Watch for unusual formatting. Many false news sites have misspellings or awkward layouts. Read carefully if you see these signs.
- Consider the photos. False news stories often contain manipulated images or videos. Sometimes the photo may be authentic, but taken out of context. You can search for the photo or image to verify where it came from.
- Inspect the dates. False news stories may contain timelines that make no sense, or event dates that have been altered.
- Check the evidence. Check the author’s sources to confirm that they are accurate. Lack of evidence or reliance on unnamed experts may indicate a false news story.
- Look at other reports. If no other news source is reporting the same story, it may indicate that the story is false. If the story is reported by multiple sources you trust, it’s more likely to be true.
- Is the story a joke? Sometimes false news stories can be hard to distinguish from humor or satire. Check whether the source is known for parody, and whether the story’s details and tone suggest it may be just for fun.
- Some stories are intentionally false. Think critically about the stories you read, and only share news that you know to be credible.
For more in-depth guidelines visit this piece from Elia Powers, PHD.
Earlier this week AM:PM PR cut a check to support a small newspaper in Eastern Oregon unfairly threatened with an expensive lawsuit from a governmental agency seeking to block its reporting.
While the lawsuit was dropped on Tuesday (after Gov. Kate Brown interceded) the story reminds us that good journalism is under constant pressure from many different threats. In addition to lawsuits, journalists and related media professionals face crises spurred by intended slurs like “fake news” from our commander-in-chief, reduced subscribers, low industry wages and questionable business practices leading to reduced newsrooms (among others).
It’s clear our friends working in the media could use some vocal allies, so the following is a list of suggestions to kickstart the creative process for other communication professionals looking to support journalism and the terrific professionals working in the field:
- If your client wants to promote a news story that isn’t news, push back. As trained professionals and consummate media consumers, communication professionals know what information is required to create a story. Media relations professionals and publicists should feel emboldened to educate clients when they try to push an idea that will only clutter inboxes or annoy our reporter friends.
- Don’t blast out a press release to 100 irrelevant reporters. When pitching a story idea, always make an effort to research and identify reporters that are directly applicable to the story, and reach out to them individually with short, easy-to-read emails. Buckshot press release blasts are annoying to those that receive them erroneously and will damage your credibility if you take a willy nilly approach. (And please, if you send information to more than one reporter at a time, please use the BCC feature in your email platform.)
- Don’t harass reporters. If you wrote a compelling pitch and press release and reached out to the right reporter you should hear back from them if they are interested. If you don’t hear back, maybe they aren’t interested? Exercise emotional intelligence when following up.
- Spend money to subscribe to multiple media outlets. Between AM:PM PR and my home media interests I currently subscribe to: Oregon Public Broadcasting, The Eugene Register-Guard, The Portland Business Journal, Salem Statesman Journal, The New York Times, Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, Funemployment Radio and RollingStone. If we want free, independent journalism we need to get back into the habit of paying for it.
- Disseminate real news. Follow your favorite journalists on social media platforms. Share their work, comment on their stories, make your proverbial Uncle Bob read those stories, too. In some newsrooms reporter’s performance reviews are tied to story impressions and other social media related-metrics, so put your thumb on the scale for journalism.
- Challenge Uncle Bob. One of the best things going for the anti-media crowd (sharing actual fake news from Brietbart, Infowars, NaturalNews, etc.) is that people who actively identify the fakery are so burnt out on the b.s. that they either ignore these connections or unfollow them altogether. Perhaps instead, demonstrate what real journalism looks like or occasionally and subtly offer tools for spotting fake news (like this guide for 5th graders from Vox).
These are just a few simple ideas – we’d love to hear your thoughts via Facebook or Twitter. #supportjournalism
2nd Installment By Jay Carter, Beyond Measure Media
This post is borrowed from BeyondMeasureMedia.com
Last time, we explored why the story your video tells is so important, and how a great video will always pass the “I Should Certainly Hope So” test.
Today, we reveal the Secret #2: Sound quality. While video quality can go a long way toward telling a clear and compelling video story, I think sound quality is even more important.
Bad Video Happens
Most (honest) professional videographers have a war story or two. Memories of a time they really blew it behind the camera, especially at the beginning of their career.
Hey, stuff happens – out-of-focus interviews, a bright-blue shot of what is supposed to be a white wall, an accidental jerk of the camera away from the action.
But even in the face of those kinds of video mistakes, there are usually ways of correcting or covering those flaws and recovering what could still turn out to be a decent video.
But sound? You really can’t screw that up.
Mess up on the sound, and your video is most likely dead in the water.
Here’s a good example:
Watch (and listen) to the two short interview clips below.
Clip #1: Bad Sound Quality
The sound you’re hearing in this first clip above came from the onboard mic that was attached to the camera.
It sounds like the subject is talking into a microphone that was located across the room, because that’s exactly what was happening.
The too-lengthy distance between the person on camera and the microphone is the biggest reason why many videos recorded on smart phones often appear less than professional.
Listening to a person who sounds far away makes the viewer feel far away. It causes their attention to wane. Rather than taking the viewer on a journey, bad sound reinforces that they’re just watching a video – a video that is annoyingly hard to hear and understand.
Now compare that to clip number two below.
Clip #2: Good Sound Quality
In this second clip the audio is recorded from a lavaliere microphone clipped to the subject’s collar.
This simple improvement in sound quality changes everything.
Despite the fact that this is a poorly-lit shot, despite the fact that there is no depth to the shot, it’s still (mostly) usable in a video, particularly if we’re only using a quick clip of the interview.
For the interviews we shoot – and even for b-roll footage of people doing things – we use a wireless Sennheiser lavaliere microphone to pick up deep, rich audio.
There are even lav mics available these days that can attach to your smart phone, delivering a richer and more professional sound quality than what most smart phone video cameras can deliver by themselves.
But isn’t just about making your video “sound professional.” It’s deeper than that.
Sound quality can make a viewer pay closer attention to the on-camera speaker. It can make the entire experience sound (and thus, feel) more intimate.
More than fancy lighting, more than stunning panoramic images, more than pretty much anything else, a rich quality sound can pull a viewer into the story being told on a screen.
In the next post, we’ll uncover our third secret for creating powerful videos – a secret tool I personally use on nearly every project I produce to “dial up” the emotional impact of an interview.
Also, if you’re in the Portland, Oregon area, stay tuned for Part 2 of “Pro Secrets for Making Great Videos” in November.
Jay Carter is a former Texas TV news anchor and reporter, with numerous awards from the Associated Press and the Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in broadcast storytelling. He has worked as a radio news anchor and voiceover talent. He works with his wife and business partner, Michele Kim Carter, at Beyond Measure Media creating video stories and testimonials for businesses and nonprofits.
A note from AM:PM PR
According to Google, in 2016, more video content will be uploaded in 30 days than all three major U.S. T.V. networks combined have created in 30 years and a Cisco forecast report predicts online video will be responsible for 80% of internet traffic by 2019.
Video is the quickest way to influence an audience and the most effective tool for telling complicated stories. In an age with so much content coming coming at us, video can also be the easiest tool for learning new things.
We see video as a powerful communications tool and regularly recommend it to clients.
A decade ago, businesses struggled to understand social networking and some doubted its value or predicted it a fad and fell behind their competition. Today, video is the tool every organization should include in their marketing plans.
Here’s a great source for on using video for business: By 2019, Video Marketing Will Be Everything. You’ve Got to Get in on the Trend — Now.
Part 1 of our 2 part series of video secrets from the pros
Having just one video about your business or organization isn’t enough any more. Now you need a series.
At our next Speakeasy event, hear from the team at Beyond Measure Media. Jay and Michele
Carter are award-winning video producers that specialize in telling documentary-style “stories from the heart” for businesses and nonprofits.
Drawing from years of experience in front of and behind the camera, they share:
- The types of videos every organization needs right now, and why.
- The most common mistakes businesses make when creating their first video(s), and how to avoid them.
- How to turn a mundane video interview into a magic moment that viewers won’t forget.
- The one production element that is even more important than video quality.
- Creative ways to boost your organization’s video output, including how to turn your entire roster of employees into lean, mean, powerful video production and idea machines.
All across the web and social media, your future customers and raving fans are out there — waiting to see, hear and connect with your brand and your mission. A series of clear, carefully crafted videos is the most powerful way to tell your story, build loyalty and grow your tribe.
Join us October 5th for Part 2 of Pro Secrets for Making Powerful Videos.
About Beyond Measure Media & Michele Kim Carter and Jay Carter
Michele Kim Carter has worked on documentary films, most recently co-directing Southern Fried Fencing, now available on Amazon. She was local producer for Beer Is Cheaper Than Therapy, which was broadcast on TV networks around the world. She produced TV newscasts in Texas, and won the Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in broadcast storytelling.
Jay Carter is a former Texas TV news anchor and reporter, with numerous awards from the Associated Press and the Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in broadcast storytelling. He has worked as a radio news anchor and voiceover talent. He also co-directed the feature-length documentary Southern Fried Fencing with Michele.
At Beyond Measure Media, Jay shoots and edits video, and helps craft the overall tone and narrative flow of video productions. Michele produces, handles logistics, conducts interviews and helps clients tell stories that resonate.
If you want to be quoted, say something colorful.
(Reposted from The Guardian – January 13, 2016)
The Oregon militia’s bizarre PR tactics – from dildos to Facebook videos
Militiamen have attracted media coverage while occupying the Malheur wildlife refuge, but their disjointed social media messages have ‘created a big mess’
by Sam Levin
The armed militiamen occupying a wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon have increasingly turned to a different weapon in their fight: social media.
Militia leader Ammon Bundy and his rightwing followers, who have been stationed at the headquarters of the Malheur national wildlife refuge since 2 January, have used Facebook, YouTube and live-stream videos to get their message out directly to the public and to call on anti-government activists to support their cause.
In the process, they’ve attracted significant media coverage from across the globe while also holding daily press briefings at the entrance to the refuge that draw huge crowds of hungry reporters each morning.
But their public relations strategy has repeatedly suffered from bizarre self-aggrandizing videos that rogue militiamen continue to post to their followers. The steady feed of rambling selfie videos have prompted widespread mockery and scorn and in some cases have clearly further distracted from the plight of Harney County ranchers whom the militia claim to be backing.
Most recently, militiaman Jon Ritzheimer, the prominent anti-Islam activist from Arizona, posted a Facebook video of himself opening hate mail sent to the refuge, including a box filled with dildos. “It’s really ridiculous. This one was really funny – a bag of dicks,” he said in the video before angrily shoving a bunch of packages off the table. “They just spend all their money on hate, hate, hate, hate!” he shouted.
And on Tuesday, Oregon Public Broadcasting uncovered a video from an occupier named David Fry from Ohio, who filmed himself using government computers at the compound to create an “Oregon standoff” website.
The videos are the latest in a series of social media messages from numerous members of the Bundy bunch – footage that often captures long-winded and sometimes incoherent speeches that, at the very least, draw further support within rightwing online communities. They may have learned some lessons about how to garner consistent national news coverage from the standoff with the federal government in 2014, which was led by Ammon’s father, Cliven Bundy, a Nevada rancher.
But marketing and communications experts in Oregon who have closely followed the standoff, which has caused a major backlash in the nearby town of Burns, said the militia’s PR tactics were disjointed and chaotic and were only breeding further resentment from the people they purport to be helping.
“If they are trying to get America to pay attention to the grievances they have with federal laws, they are losing that battle,” said Mike Phillips, a public relations specialist with Portland firm AM:PM. “They do not have an effective spokesperson. Having so many people involved and so many people creating their own messaging on their own platforms … they’ve just created a big mess.”
Phillips pointed to Ritzheimer’s video as a clear example of how the militiamen were doing a poor job of drawing attention to complaints about the overreach of the federal government.
“He should not be a spokesperson,” Phillips said. “He’s created a huge distraction … and opened up an avenue for the media to pay attention to that. He’s also opened the door to receive more bags of dicks. It’s just kind of a cluster of craziness.”
At the very least, the use of social media has ramped up support within various conservative militia organizations and so-called “patriot” groups, which may be why more activists continue to flock to the occupation from across the country.
“There’s a significant amount of people in this movement using technologies to communicate with one another. It’s effective for that very small proportion of people,” Phillips said. “It’s probably a good technique to reach out to their core audience.”
The militia’s latest PR move was to announce a meeting in town on Friday, which will be the first time the militiamen leave the compound and formally meet with Burns residents. Given the huge pushback against the occupation from Harney County officials, the meeting is likely to further escalate tensions and draw more media attention to the questionable tactics of the militia.
“If they were going to do this over again, they probably would’ve been better served by building more of a coalition on the ground,” said Ward Hubbell, another public relations specialist based in Portland. “They didn’t really get permission from any stakeholders there to represent their interests.”
Our work with the International Cannabis Business Conference and Oregon Medical Marijuana Business Conference gave us a good look into the culture and complexity of the Oregon Cannabis Industry. In the following blog we’re happily sharing some of what we’ve learned with our local business partners, friends and loyal readers.
The 411 on Oregon Legalization
Possession of marijuana is now legal in Oregon. Purchasing marijuana? That’s a different matter. The Oregon legislature has been discussing a plan allowing dispensaries to sell to adults who are 21 and over, beginning October 1st, but the legislature has until next year to create more permanent rules for the retail sale and purchase of cannabis products. So, while it’s currently still illegal to buy and sell the stuff, if a stork delivers a baggie on your doorstep, or a stash appears via immaculate conception on your coffee table – you’re totally in the clear!
Legal possession has its limits, too. Adults are allowed up to 8-ounces of cannabis in their homes and up to one ounce away from home without fear of criminal prosecution. Oregon residents 21 and over may have up to four plants in their home.
It’s also still illegal to consume cannabis substances in public places, but oddly enough, at the “giveaway and smoke out” event celebrating an end to prohibition – participants were granted the right to LEGALLY trade, test and posses up to seven grams of cannabis.
The Cannabis Industry
The cannabis industry culture is unique, but members are as serious as any member of Oregon business community. Conversations with cannabis entrepreneurs are nothing like the ones you may have had with your best friends’ older brother back in high school. For example, any references to “grass” should be saved for conversations about Linn County horticulture.
With the successful legalization of cannabis in Oregon, Washington Alaska, Colorado and, likely, California in 2016 – the “Cannabis Country” of the West Coast will be a multi-billion dollar industry. Growth of the cannabis industry will have a broader impact on the economy by increasing demand for innovation, supporting technologies and professional services. Examples include:
- Commercial Real Estate Brokers – More than 300 dispensaries have already been approved in Oregon. Growers, wholesalers, processors and retailers all need space and brokers have the expertise to find the best options and negotiate the best deals.
- Lawyers – Any business owner should have an attorney to help set up their entity, but cannabis industry entrepreneurs are blazing trails and all the laws have yet to be settled and defined. Lawyers with cannabis industry knowledge and expertise will be in demand to help business owners ensure compliance, protect their intellectual property, guide the licensing process and negotiate contracts.
- Investment Brokers – All the big investment groups are offering cannabis portfolios, but now some firms specialize solely on the industry. Smart investors are seeing a cash crop potential and the number of interested parties will continue growing.
- Public Relations/Marketing – As stores become established across the state retailers and related product manufacturers will need to differentiate themselves to stand out and compete for customers. Cannabis growers will discover they face education barriers that create communication challenges similar to other agricultural and natural resource industries. Likewise, they’ll need to educate consumers – much in the same way that vineyards discuss terroir, palate, nose and qualities unique to different grape varietals and growing techniques. Entrepreneurs will benefit by thinking about branding, communications planning, social media strategy and media relations early in the game.
- Security Firms – Dispensaries and growth operations will be wise to protect their premises and hire guards. These properties are at risk for break-ins and theft like liquor stores and distilleries – likely greater risk. Just as with investment brokerages, specialized security firms have already spawned.
- Insurance Agents – All businesses need insurance and the cannabis industry has its own unique needs and requirements. Specialty insurance agencies have cropped up to serve the industry and this area of the insurance sector will continue to grow.
- Tourism & Hospitality Stakeholders – 420-friendly hotels have popped up in Colorado (Bud & Breakfast) and there’s no reason to think they won’t in Oregon. While most hotels, B&B’s and new economy rental businesses like VRBO, Vacasa or AirBnB are smoke-free, many may decide to make an exception to attract cannatourists. Additionally, who’s to say that taxis and Uber and Lyft drivers won’t benefit from a surge in ridership with an influx of these tourists, many of whom will look to enjoy the best of Portland’s dining experiences.
Time will tell what the cannabis industry will bring to Oregon’s businesses and economy, but getting in early will offer the most opportunity for those who want to capitalize.
For more on the industry, the current status of laws and potential opportunities, check out these sources:
International Cannabis Business Conference: http://internationalcbc.com
Marijuana Politics: http://marijuanapolitics.com
The Northwest Leaf: http://www.thenorthwestleaf.com
Oregon Cannabis Connection: http://occnewspaper.com
Dope Magazine: http://www.dopemagazine.com
The Cannabist : for a wonderful glossary for cannabis industry lexicon
What is it like to be a breaking news reporter in today’s fast-paced 24/7 news cycle? What draws their attention? Join us July 15th at 4 p.m. at AM:PM PR to get these questions answered by our next Speakeasy host — Jerry Casey — breaking news manager for The Oregonian. Changes to The Oregonian’s newsroom have been widely discussed. These major shifts have changed how Jerry reports and he’ll share what that means for those who work with media.
Jerry has worked as an editor in Portland since 1999. His diverse newspaper career includes stints in Virginia and Florida, in addition to Oregon. Jerry says that in his 25 year career as a journalist he’s been unable to hold one job without coveting another. He’s been a copyeditor, business editor, city editor, bureau chief and The Oregonian‘s first online editor — a role that shapes how stories are produced and consumed.
Most importantly, Jerry is the husband of another journalist and the father of two kids: Rosencrantz from the Jesuit High School production of “Hamlet” and the only left-handed pitcher/first baseman playing for the Padres in the Cedar Mill Little League.
We hope to see you for what will be a compelling and enjoyable Speakeasy featuring a remarkable journalist. Please RSVP with Mike if you plan to attend.
Student Portfolio Reviews Reveal Successful Tools & Tactics
For several years I’ve volunteered to review hardcopy portfolios from graduating University of Oregon public relations students. As part of the U of O program, each student presents their portfolio to a panel of three PR/marketing/communication professionals who rate their demeanor, presentation skills and mastery of career-related projects and assignments.
This experience, in addition to reviewing the daily emails and resumes sent to AM:PM PR by new hire hopefuls, has given me a good idea as to what makes a job candidate stand out. I’ve come to appreciate the value of a portfolio – it may be the best and most underused tool by jobseekers. While not always necessary, a portfolio can bolster the information found on a resume by demonstrating an expanded understanding of communication challenges and solutions.
Your portfolio should be easy to follow and easy to share. For the in-person interview, bring a hardcopy, or a tablet to walk through your work with a little digital pizzazz. Either way, make sure you bring extra printed copies of your best work to leave behind with your interviewer, who may want to share it with other decision makers.
Assembling the Standout Portfolio
Great portfolios for PR job candidates include:
- an up-to-date resume with skills and experience highlighting abilities related the the job you are interviewing for.
- a compilation of writing samples, i.e. pitch emails, press releases, blog posts and college assignments.
- before/after analytical data, such as website or social platform analytics from projects that you worked on.
- graphic, presentation or information design assignments. If you’re using printed pieces within a hardcopy portfolio, make sure you use high quality images. Pixelated images give the impression you don’t really understand the tools or you won’t go the extra mile on the job.
- materials or case studies from previous work or school experience that demonstrate strategy and results or challenges and solutions.
Leave a lasting impression
If time allows, offer to walk through your portfolio during the interview. Explain each item you’ve included as a case study – the assignment, how you thought through it, how it was executed and what the results were. The students who stood out most in the portfolio reviews I’ve experienced identified PR-related challenges and demonstrated their solutions and results.
Create a professional portfolio website. Think of it as your own personal branding tool. An attractive website demonstrates you value good design. Share links to your successes i.e. social sites, earned media, guest posts. Draft engaging and relevant blog posts. It doesn’t hurt to write fan posts about professionals you admire either. Like this interview with our very own Pat McComick.
Think about how you appear everywhere online. Include as much as possible on your LinkedIn profile and any other digital platform you use professionally, including your personal website. At 33-years-old, and only 7 years removed from a fledgling rock’n’roll career, I’m not a curmudgeon, per se – but even I recognize the importance of a clean social media profile. Consider the professional reputation you are building and what potential employers could take away from the messages you type or the information you share. You don’t have to stop having fun, but you do need to demonstrate you understand privacy settings.
Now, go get ‘em.