Viewers ‘second screen’ debates

The presidential primary debates have been big business this election cycle. Viewership records have been set for Fox News (24 million viewers), CNN (23 million), CNBC (14 million) and Fox Business (13.5 million), destroying old marks across the board. Viewers also have begun live-tweeting the broadcasts in record numbers, a practice sometimes called second screening.…

Will human nature drag down science journalism?

Jesse Singal is a senior editor at New York Magazine, where he runs The Science of Us, a website about the science of human behavior. He wrote a series of articles about the Michael LaCour scandal as it unfolded. A former science writer, Sharon Dunwoody is Evjue-Bascom Professor Emerita in the School of Journalism and…

Hollywood shines its spotlight on journalism

BEN LYONS / Hollywood still casts the media in powerful roles, even while satirizing their tabloidization. Journalists in film are capable of bringing down regimes and crushing Broadway shows single-handedly. But changes to the news environment have not gone unnoticed. Social media competes side-by-side with the New York Times. It’s no coincidence sensationalism has seeped back on-screen, where celebrity gossip and gory crime often displace serious issues and ethics are seen as quaint. While still incorporating our classic images of journalists, both heroes and fools, scriptwriters have updated Hollywood’s mirror to more accurately reflect today’s fragmented and sometimes troubling media landscape.

Facebook v. Science

By BEN LYONS / Social media have helped us cocoon ourselves into comfortable ignorance of “the other side” — so goes the prevailing notion of the last few years, since Facebook has been king. A team of researchers at Facebook published an article Thursday that claimed to detail how much the site contributes to political echo chambers or filter-bubbles. Published in the journal Science, their report claimed Facebook’s blackbox newsfeed algorithm weeded out some disagreeable content from readers’ feeds, but not as much as did their personal behavior. A flurry of criticism came from other social scientists, with one, University of Michigan’s Christian Sandvig, calling it Facebook’s “it’s not our fault” study.

Periscope’s promise and peril

By Ben Lyons / Live streaming is pushing further toward the mainstream, but hurdles remain. With Twitter’s March acquisition of the mobile application Periscope (launched a few weeks after its main competitor, Meerkat), live streaming is now more accessible to both streamers and viewers. The riots in Baltimore apparently have offered Periscope a journalistic coming out. The Guardian’s Washington correspondent Paul Lewis has been lauded for his powerful interviews conducted over the streaming app. But the media may need to be reminded that the content of streams are more often raw information than actual journalism. And in areas where journalism and the entertainment industry mix, apps like Periscope can land media personnel in hot water.

Michel Martin urges journalists to tell the uncomfortable truth

By BEN LYONS / “Journalism matters because we have the responsibility to inform readers of the truth of their world, even when they don’t want us to.” That was the message Michel Martin, host of NPR’s “Tell Me More,” and journalist of more than 25 years gave guests at Gateway Journalism Review’s First Amendment Celebration March 19. Drawing journalists and friends of news from around the region, the event took place at the Edward Jones headquarters in Des Peres, Mo. “We are following the story of ourselves as a nation,” Martin said of the media’s Ferguson coverage. Just as we as a people are imperfect, journalism should “hold a mirror to both flaws and beauty,” she said.

Ebola reminds us perception is reality

As with other noisy public health topics, covering the ongoing Ebola crisis has posed several challenges. Journalists must have the facts right, of course, or risk irreparable damage to public understanding of the disease. But they also must decide how to deal with the myths others have unleashed. Is it better to raise the ghosts of erroneous beliefs to dismiss them, or to shun them entirely for fear of feeding panic?