Angry Asian Nation

“A daily must-read for the media-savvy, socially conscious, pop-cultured Asian American.” -The Washington Post

Phil Yu’s blog Angry Asian Man has been around since 2001, meaning most of my life, and growing up, it was something I was introduced to by my mom to become more culturally aware of my own background. Yu isn’t as angry as he purports to be, and much of the blog is pop culture things, features on Asian Americans, articles on Asian American history, and some news on anti-Asian racism. While the site itself is clearly a blog, it also looks very much like it hasn’t been changed since 2001, and maybe that’s what I love about it.

Continue reading “Angry Asian Nation”

Blast to the Past

Recently, I was talking with a friend about the whole Y2K scare, how our parents generation believed the computers wouldn’t process the year 2000, how the markets would crash and how civilization as we know it would burn out. Looking back, it seems unfathomable. But so did the 2011 Rapture and frankly, most of our childhood dreams–I wanted to be a chiropractor. Sometimes, 20/20 hindsight is a blessing.

That said, sometimes, people’s predictions of the future aren’t always apocalyptic. Certainly, we all were hoping that 2015 would bring Marty McFly’s hoverboard. And perhaps even more disappointing is that the hopes and dreams of some members of the media didn’t come true (and alarming for those that did).

In this 1981 newscast by KRON, audiences were exposed to the concept of reading the newspaper on the computer. Let that sink in for a minute. That’s about 1/120th of how long it would take to even load the entire paper onto your computer, so you can take two minutes if you need. Of course, we know today that reading the news online isn’t so far off, but reading it in newspaper form (page by page) is far from what we do today. Sure, you can view the New York Times front page, but most websites today recognize that their readers want the sites to update as the news changes, not in the static way traditional print media exists.

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Marty is also horrified that it took 2 hours to receive the electronic newspaper over the phone (Wikimedia Commons)

Looking ahead to the future (1994), innovators at the Knight-Ridder design lab envisioned a tablet device that would let subscribers download the daily paper and take it on the go. Roger Fidler recognized what others didn’t–that mobile devices would rule the 2000s and the 2010s. (Check out the chart below from Wireless Week to see how much of our digital media is being consumed via mobile devices versus desktops and tablets.) But what they didn’t count on was the fact that consumers today don’t want ads, to the point that ad-blockers letting ads through is creating waves. Interestingly, the folks over at Knight-Ridder also believed that readers would want articles geared toward them–like Amazon’s algorithms to suggest products.

Speaking of Amazon, perhaps the most entertaining of the media predictions was this video, from the Poynter Institute, called Epic 2015. The creators of the video predicted that the media landscape would be dominated by Google and Amazon, who combine to create Googlezon, taking on the New York Times and running the media giant into the ground. In the last minutes of the video, the narrator presents a frightening picture: for some, the algorithm create a deep and expansive newsfeed, a river of information tailored to one’s interests. But for many, it is a shallow, factually inaccurate wading pool (probably full of Harambe memes). I’d argue that today, we see these sort of echo chambers happening–not through Googlezon, but through Facebook. The Wall Street Journal created an interactive graphic set called Blue Feed, Red Feed, exploring the issue of filter bubbles on Facebook that limit our access to the news. Facebook, in response, told it’s users to seek out information outside their newsfeed.

The issues that presented in these videos don’t stand alone; they’re issues we consider today. How to best market print media in the digital age, how to get audiences to interact with ads, how to prevent memes from taking over our newsfeed? Most importantly, both as journalists and as consumers, how do we know what matters? It’s not something we can let a computer decide, nor a single person. When a million stories are begging to be heard, consumers rely on the collective media to tell them what is important, without the smoke and mirrors of algorithms and investors. If we can’t do that, then we shouldn’t call ourselves journalists.

(This segues us nicely into Thursday’s topic on media bias and our need for honest and ethical reporting!)

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(Wireless Week)

WTH, LAMESTREAM MEDIA! Media Bias pt 1

In my last post, I briefly mentioned the idea of the “hostile media effect” in regards to media bias. And as our favorite beauty queen-turned-politician-turned-reality tv star loves to remind us, the mainstream media is often called out by viewers across the political spectrum as untrustworthy and unfair. Is this totally deserved?

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The simple answer is…not entirely. Of course, there are screw ups that lead the public to lose trust in an organization, like Brian Williams’ scandal in 2015 or CBS’s 2012 coverage of Benghazi. But mainstream (or LAMEstream, if you know what’s up) doesn’t necessarily deserve all the scrutiny it receives, thanks to the hostile media effect (HME). In a nutshell, HME refers to the phenomena of audiences perceiving a bias that doesn’t exist.

For example, a liberal student reads an article and comes away believing the article was conservative-leaning, perhaps due to their own far-left stance–even though the article in question wasn’t biased. The kicker to HME is that the bias may exist in favor of the slighted party–so in the above case, the article itself is left-leaning, yet due to HME, the liberal reader comes away believing the article is right-leaning and thus, biased.

HME isn’t a new concept but it’s certainly been exacerbated by the speed at which we produce and consumer content, thanks to social media. A number of researchers have examined HME, most notably Lee Ross, Mark Lepper and Robert Vallone studying the effect of media bias and HME in coverage of the Beirut Massacre. Researchers concluded that both pro-Israeli and pro-Arab viewers found the news coverage to be biased against them, even while watching the exact same newscasts of the massacre. (It’s an informative though lengthy read, and if you want to know about the Beirut Massacre itself, I suggest the New York Times’ The Beirut Massacre: The Four Days.) When we extrapolate perceived biases into race-related issues in America (which are still some of the most controversial issues at play), it’s easy to see how perceived and actual biases can be hard to untangle and even harder to navigate, especially as a person of color in America.

While HME does effect audiences, it is still critical to understand where bias comes into play when we report content. Next week, we’ll address some common causes of bias and dive into how language itself plays a role.