Media Influencer

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Unmediated interview

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I love this example of an individual’s ability to present his version of what happened in an encounter with mainstream media. The individual in question is David Weinberger, not an unknown entity, which perhaps makes him more vulnerable than a random punter to CNN mis-editing. David is uneasy about his 15 minute conversation with CNN about Kathy Sierra cyberbullying affair and  probably for good reasons. Only a few seconds will make it to the programme called ‘Dark side of the Net’. The title of the show makes me digress here. One of my (many) pet crusades in recent years is the myth of objectivity in journalism and media in general. Human beings are not objective and in as much journalists and their editors are people too, the same applies to them. Balanced possible although rare, objective no. The very words they choose for headlines reflect biases of stories written before researched.

David Weinberger, a blogger and therefore not-so-hapless victim of the MSM, has realised how some of his answers could be edited and addresses them one by one, explaining and giving context. This is really interesting. Before you only had one shot at the media exposure. You were, at the same time, a hostage to their reach and at the mercy of their interpretation. You had to get it right – maximise your ‘message’ and minimise potential damage. Hence the armies of communications professionals and PR experts, endless briefings and stilted statements, full of words and signifying nothing. Now you just do your best, aiming for a genuine conversation with the reporter or interviewer and for clarity and understanding. If worried that things might not come out as intended, as in David’s case, you can explain and fill in the gaps on your blog. Simple and effective, although if you do make a fool of yourself on  air, it’s a bit harder to correct than some biased or tendentious editing.

I agreed to the interview because I wanted to try to counter the fear-mongering story I’m pretty sure CNN wants to produce about the Web. I thought the CNN story was seizing on one case — a nasty, disturbing case without doubt — and using it to generalize without further evidence or research, because the media likes conflict and likes to raise fears about the Net.

I left feeling crappy, afraid that as I tried to maintain two positions — bullying when it happens is shameful and wrong, but it’d be wrong to characterize the Web as dominated by bullying — the editors will use the juiciest quote from just one of those two points. It’s no fun to lose control of your words, although I knew that going in.

Thanks, David, noted. Let’s see what CNN does with the Dark Side of the Net piece. I have a feeling many will be watching and immediately providing their side of the story. The light may end up shining on the dark side of journalism…

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