The Facebook Issue(s): this week on Fresh Powder

The Cool Kid

Facebook is America’s favorite social media platform, and it’s not just by a little bit. In fact, we Americans love our newsfeeds so much that we interact with them in numbers at least one and half times greater than the volume of people who watch the Super Bowl in any given year. And we do it every. Single. Day. But we can’t help it: our country’s collective consciousness is utterly intoxicated by Facebook’s just-for-you-because-you’re-special algorithms, even in spite of the fact that, well, facts (that is, truthful, accurate,vetted news-facts) have nothing to do with it.

Facebook the Facts

You probably saw at least one of them last week: “news” articles claiming that Obama issued an executive order for a vote recount or that Pope Francis endorsed Trump for president. The fake articles were all over Facebook newsfeeds and they were being shared over and over again, aiding the media sensationalism that was so pervasive in this election cycle. So, did Facebook have a responsibility to fact check stories circulating on it’s platform? And how much responsibility should the social media outlet take for the outcome of the presidential election by allowing the rapid proliferation of fake news? Or, do we just want something to blame for last week? Facebook is finding itself at the center of the roiling storm of post-election anger and confusion, and it’s finding out that being the most popular kid on the playground isn’t always as glamorous as it sounds.

Brought to you by

It’s only natural that as America’s premier social media platform and a lead purveyor of news both fake and real, Facebook should take on the responsibility of shaping of tomorrow’s journalists: now you can get trained on using Facebook for journalism, by Facebook. The first free, online course featured Facebook Live and was released on November 3rd. As much as Zuckerberg would love to maintain a hands-in-the-air, we-just-provide-the-platform stance, it’s clear that Facebook executives are recognizing the site as the powerful media sharing outlet it is, and are taking some initiative in service of journalism. We think.

About Face(book)

At least it only took a little viral public shaming to get Facebook to decide to stop being terrible. The social media platform had been allowing advertisers to target ads to specific groups based on algorithmically derived “ethnic affinities.” But afterProPublica exposed the practice, Facebook decided that sanctioning racism isn’t cool, and has stopped offering the option for housing and employment ads. We forgive you Facebook, at least you learned. Now, with your broad, almost reckless reach, do us a favor and remind America that racism isn’t cool, no matter what the president-elect says.

This also happened last week:

We lost Gwen Ifill yesterday and it feels bad. But the PBS news anchor’s legacy will remain a powerful example of journalistic integrity, courage and strength, and we’ll keep on keeping on, in her honor. In better news, Brendan Dassey, whose story broke all our hearts when he was convicted for murder along with uncle Steven Avery (Netflix’ documentary, Making a Murderer, investigated the case), will be released from prison today. So we have that.

Where, Where, Where and Where: this week on Fresh Powder

Where the readers are

They’re online, that’s where they are. The increasing movement of readers away from print publications to online ones is leaving an advertising vacuum and it’s taking big papers down with it. It’s not surprising that print papers have fallen out of fashion: news is super easy to consume online, it’s less burdensome (like, who wants to carry around a giant paper?) and it’s not limited to region: readers can consume news from anywhere in the world. Obviously, advertisers know that where go the readers, so must go the advertising dollars. So what’s a paper to do? The writing’s on the digital wall.

Where the news is

NPR covered October’s major DDoS attack using Facebook Notes. No, the news coverage didn’t drive traffic from Facebook to NPR, it didn’t even necessarily convert non-NPR-consuming Facebook users to NPR-curious ones. But that wasn’t the point. NPR says the goal was to get the news to the people, and while Facebook has never produced fantastic numbers for NPR stories, the news org says they’re reaching people they might not get otherwise. And with the election so close, NPR isn’t going to risk glitchy coverage, so Facebook Notes is looking like a pretty good backup option, too. Bravo, NPR, for making it about news coverage and not about site traffic.

Where the buzz is

Buzzfeed is taking audience-tailored news to a new level: the company recently programmed its internal messaging platform, Slack, to notify editors the moment a story goes viral. The editors can see where in the world the story is trending and who is interacting with it, and then tailor the content to that specific audience. It’s cool, and it goes way beyond just translating stories into other languages. Using this of-the-minute attention to analytics, Buzzfeed is putting local face on its content and people dig it. Pretty neat.

Where the Hype is

Well that didn’t take long. Vine was murdered just last week, but already a new start-up called Hype aims to take it’s place. Hype offers users many of the same tools Vine did, with the aim of providing a platform for building short, shareable videos. But Hype has more bells and whistles, and the co-founders are hoping that these extra features will give Hype the edge it needs to tread water against giants Facebook and Snapchat. It looks like a cool platform, so let’s hope it can get off the ground–– we all know social media platforms eat their young.

This is also happening right now: Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg are friends, and it’s pretty adorable. The pair will debut their new cooking show, Martha and Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party, tonight on VH1. It will be a well timed relief from (what we hope) is the last night of this punishing campaign season, but keep your fingers crossed that we don’t months and months of a disputed win ahead of us, a la Florida ‘00. Or, if this election has got you’ totally addicted to drama now, we’ll give you a head start on your next fix: some fresh Brangelina divorce sensationalism. You’re welcome.

Truth, Bullies, and Rebranding (badly): this week’s Fresh Powder Report

The Embarrassing Truth

Last week the kids at Palmer Springs High School in Monument, CO, were at the center of controversy after the school newspaper’s editorial board ran a story announcing their endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president. Parents and community members didn’t hesitate to jump onto the school’s online newspaper, The Bear Truth, to start heaving abuse. What’s awesome about this? The school board, school officials, and even the Denver Post stood behind the newspaper staff, who were exercising their unequivocal right to free expression. What’s also awesome about this? It’s a valuable lesson to those angry, hate-slangin grown-ups: once you post your vitriol on a website that you don’t control, it can live forever in embarrassing infamy.

The Google Facebook Publishing Funnel

Looks like we may have a couple new bullies on the online publishing playground, and they’re pretty burly.  Last summer, Google released Accelerated Mobile Pagesand Facebook released Instant Articles. The tools are designed to provide a platform for publishing content faster than through traditional online platforms. The problem? Well, there are a few. First, in spite of WordPress plugin and other stop-gap measures, the proprietary software can be inaccessible to non-code savvy users. But more importantly, Google search results prioritize articles published with AMP, and Facebook does the same with IA. Effectively, Google and Facebook are creating a vacuum that pushes online publishers to use their platforms, or be destroyed by the suck of traffic away from their sites. You can learn more about it, but it might not stop these heavies from twisting your arm behind your back at recess.

tronc: Legacy

tronc, Inc. It doesn’t even type peace-ably into word processing software. Nevertheless, it’s the new name of Tribune Publishing and it’s meant to rebrand the company in an effort to cast a broader appeal to its online audience. As publications are increasingly going digital, the urge to rebrand is becoming more common. Or, we think that. In reality, the mad dash to keep readers has been in effect since print publishing came into existence, and we can expect that it will continue as we move increasingly into the digital realm. The take-away? However often you decide to rebrand, and for whatever reasons, don’t leave your readers wondering how a roomful of people actually agreed on an absurd new name like tronc, Inc. Incidentally, this Last Week Tonight clip lampooning the company also offers an apt analysis of the state of journalism that’s smart and funny and totally worth watching.

Buzzfeed Got Some Money…

…is essentially the net of the Wall Street Journal article on NBCUniveral’s $200 million investment in listicle startup Buzzfeed. If you’re interested in hard hitting journalism, you should definitely read the article, wherein sources like, “people familiar with the matter,” and, “a Buzzfeed spokeswoman,” are quoted. Buzzfeed, we’re happy for you. No one caters to our straight-to-the-bullet-point population quite like you do. Wall Street Journal, we’re not mad, we’re just disappointed in your lazy journalism.

These things also happened last week:

Leonardo DiCaprio almost died while diving in the Galapagos Islands but Ed Norton saved him, and everyone is talking about it. That it happened in 2010, more than half a decade ago, doesn’t seem to be a factor in the sensation surrounding this story. Take it as a symptom of campaign fatigue. Or, if you’re not tired of the political circus (or snarky stories about it), here’s some McSweeney’s for you, cause, McSweeney’s.

Free Speech Week, Shameless Fabrication, and First Person POV: this week’s Fresh Powder Report

First Things First, Amendment

It’s Free Speech Week–– a week dedicated to the promotion and celebration of our first amendment rights. Get into it! The folks over at FSW have a ton of great ideas for joining the celebration. In journalism, we’re acutely aware of the importance of freedom of speech; use this week as a good excuse to start a habit of self-expression.

Whadda Pisa Work

Yeah, the Amanda Knox case is old news, but the documentary about it is new, and it’s fascinating. Cliffs notes: 20-year-old American Amanda Knox is convicted, along with her Italian boyfriend, of killing Amanda’s roommate in Italy. Turns out, neither were involved at all. But what’s really interesting is the way media spin actually affected lives for real, like, Italian prison-real. Nick Pisa, a journalist whose stories on the case were prolific, salacious, and actually just made up, says of his work: “it’s not as if I can say, right, hold on a minute, I just want to double check that myself in some other way, I mean, goodness knows how, and then I let my rival get in first before me, and then I’ve lost the scoop. It doesn’t work like that, not in the news game.” Actually Nick, that is how it’s supposed to work. Turns out, the Knox doc is an illustrative primer on journalistic integrity: a what-not-to-do.

First Person Shooter

Vox started running personal essays in it’s First Person section last year. Personal essays aren’t a new thing, but they’re new to Vox. When they ran an essay defending the ownership of AR-15’s recently, their typically left-leaning, left-accustomed audience reacted negatively. But Vox says it’s a way to balance their reporting. By running narrative essays, the publication offers a pivot to their news features–– real-life stories from real-life people. And if personal essayist Roxane Gay, whose comment is featured in the article above, finds Vox’s personal essays offensive, well. Maybe she should pitch a story about it for First Person.

No-bel Prize, Apparently

Last week Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, and it felt like a big middle finger to American writers of all stripes. The odd choice has been subject to heavy speculation among the literary community, and reactions range from Anna North’s altruistic belief that the  Nobel committee surely didn’t intend to slight the entirety of the American lit crowd by handing the award over to a musician, to Kevin Drum’s theory that Dylan was chosen for that express purpose. Dylan’s reaction so far? Radio silence.

This also happened last week:

The in-all-ways outspoken Amy Schumer blasted Trump as part of her routine at a Tampa Bay show last weekend and received a chorus of boos and walk-outs. What’s not surprising is that Schumer had cutting commentary on the presidential candidate. What is surprising is that the comic has (or shall we said had) fans who are also Trump supporters. Fortunately, Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is pushing for a post-election Trump TV option (hedging against his father-in-law? Probably smart business), so maybe Schumer will have a chance to win some fans back as a guest of the on the orange man’s show.

Special Friends, Self-teaching and Super Textual News:this week’s Fresh Powder Report

A new email leak from the Clinton campaign is so shocking-not shocking. Turns out, the campaign has a few journalists it likes to keep close. Turns out, they like to wine and dine their special reporter friends in super secret “off the record” gatherings. And, they like to feed the media stories. In short, the Clinton campaign likes to curate their media coverage. Are we surprised? Absolutely not. Why? Because we among the cynical expect that all politicians do it. We just don’t want them to write it down.

Teach Yo’self

You’ve heard it before: the best way to learn is to teach. Recently, the University of Missouri School of Journalism and the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Instituteemployed this model of learning by tasking journalism students with creating a web resource for journalists covering race and hunger. Students weren’t given a model and were expected to identify and distill elements of reportage. It was useful; students learned what kind of resources aid effective journalism and built a useable website. Check it out the result: “Reporting Stories Hidden in Plain Sight.”

Show me the… text?

Here’s a surprising thing: younger adults prefer to get their news via text rather than video. A new study from the Pew Research Center shows that while people over the age of 50 prefer to watch their news rather than read it, people between the ages of 18-29 choose text platforms, and online ones at that. But it makes sense: text-based news online can be consumed at will, anywhere and anytime, without the commitment of carrying around a physical paper or listening to a news story. Web publishers, who have been increasingly focusing on video-based news delivery, may have to recalibrate if they want to maintain audience engagement. And with younger adults less interested in the news overall, news orgs will just have to knuckle under and give this petulant population what they want.

Your reading list just got super long

The longlist got shorter, but your list of required reading got longer: finalists for the National Book Awards were announced last week and it looks like good stuff. Roll up your sleeves, get reading, and see if you can pick the winners ahead of the ceremony on November 16th. You’ve got five weeks: go!

The time of our lives

This is the best thing that happened this week, and it’s pretty good.

These things also happened last week:

Clowns became a thing: in a bizarro manifestation of every coulrophobic nightmare ever, people dressed as creepy clowns began appearing around the country, sometimes making menacing threats or chasing passers-by. Clown expert and author of Bad Clowns, Ben Radford, theorizes that clown sightings are more common during times of social anxiety.

Incidentally, the second presidential debate took place on Sunday night and featured it’s own tangerine-skinned, goofy-haired buffoon. After tapes emerged Friday of Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women (minimized by the capering candidate as “locker room talk,”) he spent the evening channeling his clownish brethren by lurking behind his opponent as she spoke. Social anxiety? Radford is right. We can thank the clowns.

New engagement day, virtual reality, and Twitter rage: this week’s Fresh Powder Report

Today is the third annual News Engagement Day! As a society we’re less interested in the news than ever before, and this in spite of the volume of 24/7 live-feed platforms. News Engagement Day is all about re-prioritizing the news and clicking back in; it’s about getting informed and finding value in staying informed. Today, theAssociation for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication encourages everyone to consume the news and to interact with it: read, watch, listen, comment, tweet, post. Whatever you decide, get back on board with the news. How will you celebrate News Engagement Day? Share your plan, and keep spreading the word!

Building civic engagement through journalism… class.

Kids who take journalism classes are more likely to vote later in life, according to a study by two University of Kansas professors. And there’s a correlation to socioeconomic background, too. Read all about it, and give yourselves at pat on the back, you journalism educators, you. You’re helping to keep civic duty alive.

Freedom of hate speech: the problem with Twitter

What happens when you open a platform devoted to freedom of speech and openness and, incidentally, anonymity? You get a big ol’ steaming pile of hate and vitriol. You get Twitter, apparently. The decade old social media platform that once prided itself on being the platform for free speech is now struggling to address abusive and threatening, often anonymous, posts. That comments are limited to 140 characters seems only to inspire the artful distillation of hatred, and Twitter doesn’t know what to do about it. With Twitter now possibly seeking a buyer, it seems totally possible that we are witnessing the death rattle of Twitter as we know it.

The storytelling limitations of VR

It’s all about immersion these days. When it comes to digesting the world around us, we want to be all up in it. So the advent of virtual reality storytelling is not surprising and, if I’m being honest, it’s pretty cool. Check out this 360 vid of the Blue Angels flying in formation. Now you don’t even need to get off your couch, let alone get into a tiny plane, to have the experience of a lifetime! What is surprising about this newly minted method of storytelling is that, even given our insatiable desire to experience all the things all the time, there remain some experiences that are not enhanced by fully immersive reportage. Like fashion shows. Or awards ceremonies. It turns out that fixed-point observational experiences look worse in VR. Makes sense, doesn’t it? You wouldn’t turn around in your chair at the Grammy’s and stare at the audience behind you, would you? So it’s a learning process. Also, VR is expensive. Read all about the Associated Press’ year long research on VR here.

And if you want to know how publishers intend to market to the perennially short-of-attention millennial generation, check out Circa’s plan for ad-supported VR.

These things also happened last week:

Kim Kardashian West was robbed of $11 million in jewelry after being bound and gagged by five masked men in her Paris hotel room. Appropriately, if slightly surprisingly, Kayne West abruptly ended his NYC concert upon hearing the news, citing a “family emergency.” Kardashian West is safely back in the U.S., having fled Paris immediately after the robbery.

In other news, Curious George celebrates his 75th birthday this year! Incidentally, Curious George creators Hans Augusto and Margret Rey also had to flee Paris when the Nazi’s invaded during WWII. Surely, their narrow escape by means of a single bicycle must have been almost as traumatic as Kardashian West’s devastating loss of travel jewelry.

The end of the Gutenberg era, mobile-first media, and the resurrection of radio: this week’s Fresh Powder Report

Pandering to the masses fails in the world of journalism – but it’s still unavoidable:

Treating the audience as a “mass” doesn’t work for modern journalism – providing readers with a “one size fits all” scope for media and news coverage isn’t received well by such a dramatically varied audience. Of course, with major platforms like Facebook and Twitter speaking almost exclusively to the masses, how does journalism readapt to stay customized on such wide-spread social media sites? Collaboration with big media sites, finding funding for the creation of good content to be promoted by major social media outlets, and treating that content like a “product” – one that is highly valued by the social media tycoons that it so heavily relies on for consumption.

Mobile-first isn’t forward thinking – it’s common sense:

With more readers relying on mobile news more than ever, adopting a “mobile-first” approach to news is becoming an inevitability. Thanks to new developments such as Facebook Instant Articles or Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages, journalists can publish directly to mobile-based platforms, reaching the near-90% of the U.S. mobile population that use their mobile devices almost exclusively to access news and information. Here are a few ways to make your publication even more mobile-forward, courtesy of the Knight Foundation.

Snapchatters that matter:

Still struggling to see the benefit Snapchat holds when it comes to journalism? Here are five ways to find useful Snapchat accounts to follow as a journalist, courtesy of the Online Journalism blog.

Radio lives on – and it’s likely not going anywhere:

Gareth Mitchell, presenter of popular BBC radio program “BBC Click,” wants you toignore people who tell you radio is dead, asserting that radio will remain a major media outlet until major technological advances are made that can eliminate the need for it altogether. And, since that doesn’t seem like it’s happening anytime soon, he explains that as long as you’ve got an interesting way of putting information out into the radio-sphere, people will still want to listen to it. He argues that podcasters and broadcasters alike must constantly be thinking about their listeners above everything else – why does this content matter to your audience? The ability to curate relevant and interesting interviews, or read a script in a way that sounds natural without getting hung up on small mistakes is crucial, according to Mitchell – and, if you can do this, you’ll still be able to find success in what so many other journalists write off as an outdated medium.

On standing with Gawker:

“I have seen journalists I respect claim that Gawker’s brand of journalism is cruel and hence “good riddance.” I understand this point of view. Gawker’s outing of Mr. Thiel as gay was cruel. On a lesser scale, the attacks on me always seemed as if the writers were talking about a fictional creation named “Stephen Marche.” In their eyes, because I was a columnist at Esquire, I must therefore be a younger, lousier version of Norman Mailer. It bothered me that they never caught the actual mistakes that I made. They weren’t reading me closely enough to hate me for what I deserved to be hated for. But we are all living in a world in which the quality of sentences in a book matters less than the collar of the shirt you’re wearing on the back cover. Gawker reflected that change; it didn’t make it.” – Stephen Marche via The New York Times

This things also happened last week:

 

Amber Heard’s lawyer is tired of the victim being depicted as the villain – a miscasting that is manifesting strongly in Heard’s divorce process, involving claims of domestic abuse at the hand of her former husband Johnny Depp.

If being the mother of dragons doesn’t pan out, Emilia Clarke has an idea for her next major role – portraying the first female James Bond.

Stephen Hawking doesn’t understand Donald Trump – but he does understand the severity of climate change.

Friday night lights cost more to shine, Yik Yak inspires honesty, and trusty typography: this week’s Fresh Powder Report

The cost of high school football:

A northern suburb of Dallas recently approved the construction of a $63 million football stadium….for a high school. It’s no secret that high school football in the south – and in Texas in particular – is a pretty big deal. With 12,000 seats and an attached events center, this super-sized sports stadium is surprisingly just one of many new, upgraded high school football stadiums in the state of Texas. Members of the community who aren’t invested in football as a sport but support the construction of the stadium purely for its economic value, as it has the capacity to attract regional tourists to the city.

Millennials take to anonymous chat app with surprising sincerity:

The BBC has recently been experimenting with a variety of different chat apps as a means to reach and connect with their audience. When The BBC tested Yik Yak – an anonymous social media app based entirely on location – they tested it out as a way to cover the Canadian elections this fall, posting questions to the app to see if any ‘Yakkers’ would contribute to the conversation. The BBC wound up with tens of thousands of posts from Canadian youths weighing in on the issues that were important to them. Soon after in the UK, the BBC used Yik Yak to engage with their audience during Mental Health Week, which opened up a public dialogue about mental illness that other social media platforms without the anonymity Yik Yak provides may not be able to mediate.

Sports teams still offend:

Sadly, it’s still a debate amongst high school and professional sports teams alike – racial slurs are still being used to represent team mascots, despite the mass attention the subject has gained from the public over the years. While many “educated” Americans get hung up on the linguistics – the same arguments often used as a means to invalidate the use of the singular “they” as a pronoun, or fight against the positive reclamation of outdated slurs like “queer” – the population actually affected by the slurs used in these names remain largely silenced, as the move to change the names of teams affiliated with offensive racial slurs or stereotypes has been almost painfully slow.

Department of secular studies:

The University of Miami recently welcomed a new academic chair for the study of atheism, humanism, and secular ethics. This addition to the academic department heads was made possible thanks to a large donation by a local wealthy atheist, whose goal was simply finding a way to make atheism more legitimate. Religious departments and studies exist at almost every American university – while atheists are often stigmatized in this highly religious country, creating a space in academia for purely secular studies bold step in the direction of integration of non-religious morality and belief systems.

Typography saves lives:

Ever wonder why traffic signs use essentially identical fonts across the nation? For the same reason the National Weather Service recently announced that it will no longer be publishing forecast and severe weather warnings in all caps – becausetypography choices can have life or death consequences.

These things also happened this week:

Hillary Clinton has refused to partake in a final debate with Bernie Sanders prior to the California primary on the grounds that, since she will be the nominee, there’s no point.

Facebook claims it will no longer rely on the input from news outlets to determine what news should be listed as “trending.”

Twitter aims to revamp the 140 character limit by leaving multimedia out of the character count, meaning photos and videos added to tweets will no longer eat into the already constricting character limit.

The same old censorship, the best yearbook photo, and politically correct comedy: This week’s Fresh Powder Report

Stuck in a censorship loop:

The Playwickian student paper at Neshaminy High School, PA recently endured censorship from school administration after staff members made the decision to omit the name of their school’s mascot – the Redskins – from the paper. School leadership gave direct orders to the editors of the publication to use the full name in reference to an article covering a talent competition called “Mr. Redskin.” This is not the first time censorship of this nature has happened at Neshaminy – the school’s new policy is to give administration the final say when it comes to approving or denying stories that run in the paper as a response to past circumstances of similar nature. Even though administration specified the mascot name must be used in the article, the staff chose to publish the article with the mascot’s name redacted – only to have school leaders remove the article from the Playwickian’s website immediately. Attorney advocate Adam Goldstein with the Student Law Press Center claims that this is an unconstitutional act perpetrated by Neshaminy’s administration, and could potentially lead to a lawsuit in federal court.

Government gets involved in discrimination policy:

The Obama administration has issued a directive dictating that every public school district nationwide must allow transgender students to use the bathrooms they decide best align with their gender identity and expression. This declaration is signed by Justice and Education department officials, and will explain what schools can do to ensure that their students will be protected from discrimination. Schools that do not abide by this administration’s new decree could face lawsuits, or even a loss of federal aid.

The best-looking picture in the yearbook:

A seventh-grade student in Louisiana with muscular dystrophy has two pictures in his middle school yearbook – one picture for him, and one picture for his beloved service dog, Presley. Presley accompanies Seph to school everyday, and yearbook adviser Sonya Hogg couldn’t imagine leaving such a significant member of the student body out of the yearbook. Presley, a 6-year-old golden doodle, is trained to help Seph by doing things such as switching lights on and off, fetch shoes or clothes, and run for help if Seph falls and is unable to get up. Hogg describes Presley as “another very quiet student,” and believed it just made sense to include the dog in the yearbook because he’s a part of the school.

College publication comedy vs. political correctness:

This past year alone, at least two college publications have faced disciplinary action after publishing “humor” pieces that were deemed offensive; at UCSD, funding for all student publications was cut after one of those publications released an article mocking students requesting safe spaces on campus, and contained racial slurs. Michigan Technical University’s student newspaper, the Daily Bull, published a satirical piece titled “Sexually Harassed Man Pretty Okay with Situation,” and contained an offensive list meant to explain how to tell if women are “interested” in men, including items such as “she only screams a little.”  The Bull was placed on probation for two years and funding for the publication is being withheld. College campuses are shining examples of free speech – but when “free speech” is used as an excuse to cross comedic boundaries and offend, rather than spread useful and relevant information to the masses, has it gone too far? Is that truly utilizing freedom of speech? Most papers have adopted political correctness policies of some sort in order to avoid this kind of offensive comedy, though some comedies and writers believe any type of restriction – no matter how necessary – is still an infringement of their first amendment rights.

These things also happened this week:

Wondering what the best way to get out of a speeding ticket is? Get cast as the lead in a television show with cliffhangers, apparently.

In a national test of technology and engineering literacy administered by the government in 2014, girls outranked boys when it came to proficiency scores.

Scientists are trialing psychedelic drugs as a means to treat depression – groovy.

The intrusiveness of photojournalism, why computers shouldn’t grade essays, Facebook’s alleged exclusion of conservatives: today’s Fresh Powder Repo

The duality of photojournalism:

“Six of our guys were buried under the rubble of a compound that had been struck by a car bomb. More than a few of us were crying as we scrambled to retrieve their lifeless bodies. I watched a distraught staff sergeant run over to the photographer, whose presence at that moment felt intrusive, and tell him to go away. The photos were published in The New York Times the next day, and there we were: a bunch of soldiers clawing desperately at a pile of rubble. Eventually, everyone, including the sergeant, agreed it was a good thing. The photos were for us. It was our story, in all its agony and truth. Six years later, it’s the only record we have of that terrible day.” -Adam Linehan

Robots aren’t poets….yet:

Can a machine accurately grade a piece of writing? Is a computer scoring program capable of capturing the nuance or flow of a prose piece or an exam essay? The studies haven’t been all that encouraging; an essay written by the BABEL generator (an automated writing machine that essentially generates gibberish) received the highest score by the GRE computer scoring program. Because computer scoring cannot analyze meaning, argumentation, or even narrative, it relies solely on grammar, length, and vocabulary to compile a score. Educators preparing students for these tests have started training them how to write essays that lack substance, but are full of flowery vocabulary in order to receive high scores.

“What” journalism just isn’t enough:

Political reporter Chris Cillizza claims journalism isn’t “dying” – it’s just changing, and some people simply have a harder time adjusting than others. He calls on the wisdom of Erik Rydholm, executive producer of “Pardon the Interruption,” dividing journalism into three “baskets”: the “what” basket, the “so what” basket, and the “now what” basket. Cillizza argues that the “what” basket has been losing it’s appeal in new media; the “what” is almost too accessible, the “so what” and “now what” are what readers seek out in the age of digital journalism. While the “what” still matters, the “so what” and “now what’s” matter just as much; with shows like “The Colbert Report” and “Last Week Tonight” finding so much success, it’s clear audiences crave knowing more than just what’s going on – they want to know why they should care.

People will still pay for good news:

As long as we’re keeping the glass half full, Lydia Polgreen, editorial director of the New York Times, explains in a keynote address why readers will keep paying to read the New York Times. Polgreen urges publishers to look not at what they think they’ve lost in terms of revenue, resources, and retention, but focus on what their customers – the all-important consumer of news – has gained in this new age of media. Sure, the transition has been tough, and yes, journalists have suffered – but the Times is actually making more revenue from their subscribers than their advertisers, simply by staying true to their journalistic business strategy of being a subscription-based news service. The Times can do it, as they’ve long established themselves as a media platform that delivers journalism readers won’t find anywhere else – other digital journalism services may not be established enough to rely on such a firm method of subscription, but it’s still a solid form of reassurance in a time of transformation and fluctuation.

These things also happened last week:

Meghan Trainor stays true to her body-positive message, taking down her latest music video after noticing her waist was retouched in order to make her appear “thinner.”

The fire that ravaged Fort McMurray, Alberta, is finally slowing down – but not before over 2,000 structures were burned to the ground.

Facebook denies censoring politically conservative articles after a former Facebook news curator claimed that stories featuring more conservative subjects were intentionally left off of the “trending news” sidebar.