Articles about "Gawker"


Spin loses another editor-in-chief

mediawiremorningGood morning. Here are 10 media stories.

  1. Craig Marks is no longer EIC of Spin: Marks tells Poynter via email he’s out. He was the publication’s fourth editor in two years. Stephen Blackwell, SpinMedia’s fourth CEO in the same amount of time, told me Monday that he had “high hopes” for the publication, and that it would add more editing talent soon. (Poynter) | A quick phone call with Marks: “It was a mutual and amicable decision that I would leave,” he said. “With the new CEO and the new regime it felt like the right time to part ways. I would like to pursue other interests including trying to finally get a bead on my next book.” Marks, who was executive editor at the magazine in the ’90s (I worked with him then for a spell then, in my first media job), took the job in June and says the split was not performance-related. I asked him whether he felt like his brief stay there — a summer job? — had been a waste of time. “No, not at all,” he said. “It was really great, even if it was brief, to be back at Spin and to help restore and revive a publication that meant a lot and means a lot to people, and I sincerely hope I helped lay the groundwork for Spin to be good and relevant and meaningful.”
  2. Somaly Mam says she didn’t lie: “This past May, Mam’s life imploded after a Newsweek report left the impression that she had fabricated her life story and had encouraged a girl in her care to lie that she had been trafficked,” Abigail Pesta writes. “While in Cambodia, I investigated the claims against Mam and spoke to people cited in the Newsweek piece, three of whom said their views were misrepresented. One of the three, identified in Newsweek as a woman, is, in fact, a man.” (Marie Claire)
  3. Mark Ruffalo visited The Boston Globe: The actor was researching his role as reporter Michael Rezendes in “Spotlight,” a film about the Globe’s reporting on the Catholic Church’s sex-abuse scandal. (The Boston Globe)
  4. “On this beat if you fuck up with the national office, you’re fucked”: Dave McKenna writes about the uneven power relationships between the league and its media “partners” that makes independent NFL coverage very difficult. (Deadspin) | Related: Advertisers, including Anheuser-Busch and McDonald’s, have said they’re not satisfied with the NFL’s response to child abuse and domestic violence charges against players. (ESPN)
  5. Influential LGBT people in media: NPR reporter Ari Shapiro (currently enduring the sound of bagpipes as he covers the Scots referendum), Janet Mock, Re/code’s Ina Fried and Capital’s Tom McGeveran make the top 50. (Advocate)
  6. New offices for Gawker publications: “For want of others seeking the role, we are the guardians of independent media,” Gawker Media honcho Nick Denton (No. 7 on the Advocate list) says in a memo to staffers, telling them they’ll soon be blogging from 114 Fifth Ave. (Re/code) | “The new office is just a few blocks from Gawker competitors Buzzfeed and Business Insider, and is in the same building as social news site Mashable and Pierre Omidyar’s First Look Media, which is where former Gawker editor John Cook currently works.” (Capital)
  7. Is it plagiarism? Ben Mullin made a handy flowchart for editors and media watchers. (Poynter)
  8. Journalist murdered in Afghanistan: Palwasha Tokhi Miranzai “was repeatedly stabbed by unidentified men inside her house in Mazar-e-Sharif city.” (Khaama Press)
  9. Front page of the day, selected by Kristen Hare: A scary waterspout on the front of the Pensacola News Journal. (Courtesy Newseum)

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  10. Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin: Guy Vidra will become the new CEO of The New Republic. He is the general manager of Yahoo News. Owner Chris Hughes will remain as publisher but will no longer be editor-in-chief. (The New Republic) | Dana Liebelson will be a political reporter at HuffPost Politics. She’s a reporter for Mother Jones. (Email) | Ashley Codianni is now a senior producer and digital correspondent for CNN Politics Digital. She’s Mashable’s director of news video. (Fishbowl DC) | Cara Parks has been named executive editor at Modern Farmer. She was previously a freelancer and deputy managing editor at Foreign Policy. (Observer.com) | Suejin Yang has been named vice president and general manager of digital entertainment at People and Entertainment Weekly. Previously, she was vice president of Bravo Digital Media. (Fishbowl NY) | Job of the day: ProPublica is looking for a research editor. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs) | Send Ben your job moves: bmullin@poynter.org

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Zakaria plagiarized in TV show, critics say

mediawiremorningGood morning. Here are 10 media stories.

  1. Zakaria plagiarized in TV show, critics say: Mysterious media critics @blippoblappo and @crushingbort tell Poynter they will have another post on Our Bad Media later this morning outlining what they say are examples of Fareed Zakaria lifting text, this time for his CNN show, “GPS.” Here’s a video that will accompany the piece.

    @blippoblappo and @crushingbort’s last post, in August, outlined suspect passages in Zakaria’s 2008 book, “The Post-American World” and in stories in Newsweek and Foreign Affairs. Neither W.W. Norton, which published the book, Newsweek, Foreign Affairs nor Atlantic Media, where Zakaria is now a contributing editor, replied to Poynter’s requests for comment.

  2. Foley family describes frustrations with U.S. government: The FBI first told James Foley‘s family they’d be prosecuted if they paid ransom to his captors, then advised them prosecution would be unlikely, Rukmini Callimachi reports. “Once the family made it clear they wanted to pay, the bureau instructed them to stall, according to a consultant working on the hostage crisis.” (NYT) | “A policy against paying ransoms makes sense — but making the family of a captured journalist feel like criminals does not.” (Vox) | “It was very upsetting because we were essentially told to trust… that the way they were handling things would bring our son home,” Foley’s mother, Diane Foley, said last week. (ABC News) | The family’s new fund “will push for the discussion, development and coordination of policies that are consistent, transparent, and accountable to all American citizens held captive world-wide.” (James W. Foley Legacy Fund)
  3. RCFP hires a litigation director: Katie Townsend will help the organization sue those who impede newsgathering. (CJR) | “The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) filed an application on Friday with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg challenging current UK legislation on mass surveillance and its threat to journalism.” (Index on Censorship)
  4. Free cops for Fox News honcho: “According to police records obtained by Gawker, the Cresskill [New Jersey] Police Department supplies 24/7 security to [Roger] Ailes’ residence there—apparently at no cost to Ailes himself—and otherwise delivers on-demand police services to his family, regardless of whether or not they are in any obvious danger.” (Gawker)
  5. Julian Assange did a chat on Gawker: “Opinion polling from the US just two months ago shows that WikiLeaks has majority support of people under the age of 40,” Assange told PootMcFruitcakes in the chat. (Gawker) | “Pale nerd king,” “seed-spilling sex creep,” “Real-life The Matrix extra”: Abby Ohlheiser on Gawker’s history of describing Assange. (WP)
  6. What newspapers can do: They have to offer “engaging and worthwhile material,” Rem Rieder writes, conveying API chief’s Tom Rosenstiel‘s speech at the ASNE convention Monday. “They certainly are not going to out BuzzFeed BuzzFeed at the clickbait game.” (USA Today) | Alexander Nazaryan: Journalism might not be saved, but “it isn’t quite as doomed as we thought several years ago.” (Newsweek)
  7. Let’s talk about native ads: California Sunday Magazine, which plans a launch next month, will feature “story advertising” — “We are doing one series of story advertising with Nest that feels like a gallery exhibit with prominent illustrators and artists and what home means to them,” Chas Edwards tells Kara Swisher. “But we are also making sure we are very transparent.” (Re/code) | Josh Benton: “Why is native advertising so appealing to publishers? Let’s start with the obvious: money. You may have heard that a lot of news companies are in need of it.” (Nieman) | The New York Times Monday published the second of four planned native ads on Mashable. The first was called “11 Inspiring Videos That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity.” (Poynter)
  8. No comment from the bespokesperson?: The New York Times used the word bespoke “more than any other US publication in the past three months, according to a Nexis search, with “bespoke” appearing nearly three dozen times, excluding in proper names.” (CJR)
  9. Front page of the day, selected by Kristen Hare: The Buenos Aires Herald fronts a photo of a man who signals his support of Scottish independence with a complicated hairstyle. (Courtesy the Newseum)

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  10. Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin: Ryan Nobles is now a national correspondent for CNN. Previously, he was an anchor and reporter for WWBT in Richmond, Virginia. (CNN) | Preetma Singh has been named market director for Nylon. Formerly, she was market editor at WSJ Magazine. She’s also the drummer for Vomitface. (Email) | Danielle Jones has been named executive vice president for expansion at Politico. Previously, she was deputy editor-in-chief there. Miki King has been named executive vice president for operations at Politico. Previously, she was senior vice president of business development there. (Politico) | Carol Morello will be a diplomatic correspondent at The Washington Post. She covers the census and demographics there. (The Washington Post) | Theodore Kim is now a homepage editor at The New York Times. Previously, he was a mobile and tablet editor at The Washington Post. (Sched) | Marin Cogan will be a contributing editor at New York Magazine. She’s a writer-at-large for the National Journal. (Politico) | Tim Evans will be a consumer advocate for The Indianapolis Star. Previously, he was a court reporter there. (@starwatchtim) | Les Zaitz has been named investigations editor at The Oregonian. He is a senior investigative reporter there. (Email) | Job of the day: The San Jose Mercury News is looking for a Silicon Valley reporter. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs) | Send Ben your job moves: bmullin@poynter.org.

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AP journalist and translator killed in Gaza

Simone Camilli in Beit Lahiya on Monday. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Simone Camilli in Beit Lahiya on Monday. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

mediawiremorningGood morning. Here are 10 media stories.

  1. AP journalist and translator killed, photographer injured in Gaza: Simone Camilli and translator Ali Shehda Abu Afash “died Wednesday when Gaza police engineers were neutralizing unexploded ordnance in the Gaza town of Beit Lahiya left over from fighting between Israel and Islamic militants.” AP photographer Hatem Moussa was seriously injured in the explosion. (AP) | Moussa got AP’s “Beat of the Week” nod last month. (APME)
  2. Is there a second Snowden? James Bamford writes that he got “unrestricted access to [Edward Snowden's] cache of documents in various locations. And going through this archive using a sophisticated digital search tool, I could not find some of the documents that have made their way into public view, leading me to conclude that there must be a second leaker somewhere.” (Wired) | Related: What it’s like to do a photoshoot with Snowden. (Wired)
  3. Gawker covers BuzzFeed: BuzzFeed has removed nearly 5,000 old posts, some of which “clearly veered into plagiarism territory,” J.K. Trotter writes. (Gawker) | Yowch: “BuzzFeed divorces its first wife.” (@pbump) | Kelly McBride: “Taking articles down is a rare phenomenon among trustworthy institutions, and it should be executed in the full light of day.” (Poynter)
  4. BuzzFeed covers Gawker: In response to staff complaints about violent porn posted in comments, Gawker Media banned images from its Kinja platform. Kinja, Myles Tanzer reports, “is still mystifying employees and creating tensions between the company’s editorial staff and top executives.” (BuzzFeed) | Jezebel EIC Jessica Coen calls the image-banning move an insufficient “temporary band-aid.” (Poynter) | Nicholas Jackson suggests Gawker Media should “Shut down Kinja completely.” (It’s important to note here that Kinja is also Gawker Media’s CMS.) Comments, he writes, “just don’t belong at the end of or alongside posts … They belong on personal blogs, or on Twitter or Tumblr or Reddit, where individuals build a full, searchable body of work and can be judged accordingly.” (Pacific Standard)
  5. Alt-weeklies benefit from Advance’s changes: Publishers of Willamette Week, Lagniappe and Syracuse New Times have staffed up and seen growth in the wake of changes at daily papers in their cities. (AAN) | Related: Readership, alliances up at other New Orleans news outlets in last year (Poynter)
  6. MoJo’s Facebook mojo: Mother Jones engagement editor Ben Dreyfuss decided to “double down on Facebook,” Caroline O’Donovan writes, and has seen notable returns. “From what we hear, Facebook is privileging certain kinds of content-rich sites,” MoJo publisher Steve Katz says. (Nieman) | Related: “While many people now find their news on Facebook, it’s easy to forget that very recently they found it on Google, and will surely find it somewhere else in the not-too-distant future.” (NYT) | Also related: Facebook has seen many more publishers embed its posts since it launched FB Newswire. (Poynter)
  7. More BS television: Bill Simmons plans to launch “The Grantland Basketball Show” on ESPN. (The Big Lead)
  8. Journalists injured in Iraq: New York Times reporter Alissa J. Rubin, Adam Ferguson, a photographer freelancing for the Times, and Moises Saman, who was on assignment for Time, were injured in a helicopter crash in northern Iraq Tuesday. The pilot was killed. (NYT) | Saman’s pictures from the crash. (Time)
  9. Jobs still available in journalism: Dale Eisinger says he worked for “the New York office of a conservative media company based in the South,” where his charge was “to trawl Twitter, and the rest of the internet, for conspiracy and evidence of liberal malice. Then, to repackage these stories or posts or memes for the target demo.” (The Awl)
  10. Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin: Adam Serwer will be national editor at BuzzFeed. Currently, he’s a reporter at MSNBC (Poynter) | Edith Zimmerman has been named senior staff writer for Matt Taibbi’s as yet unnamed magazine. She founded The Hairpin. Laura Dawn, former creative and cultural director for moveon.org, will be the magazine’s executive director of multimedia. (Poynter) | Dominic Rushe, Alex Needham and Oliver Laughland will each take different jobs at Guardian U.S. Rushe, a business correspondent, will be East Coast technology editor for Guardian U.S. Needham, formerly a culture editor for theguardian.com, will be arts editor for Guardian U.S. Laughland will join Guardian U.S. as a senior reporter. He’s currently a reporter for Guardian Australia. (The Guardian) | Jeanne Cummings will be head of operations for Bloomberg’s forthcoming politics vertical. Previously, she was a deputy editor at Bloomberg News. (Politico) | The Denver Post is looking for a features writer to cover food and lifestyle. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs) | Send Ben your job moves: bmullin@poynter.org.

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3 ways to prevent your apology from becoming the story

On Wednesday, The Atlantic’s David Frum apologized after accusing The New York Times and other news organizations of faking photos at a Gaza hospital. And then he kept talking. So now we have more stories.

Here are three tips on how to apologize so that your apology doesn’t become the story. Study them, and you may be able to shut down some bad press.

1. Do it. Then hush.

In 2012, Poynter’s Andrew Beaujon wrote “How journalists bungle apologies: They keep talking.”

Here is how you apologize: “I’m sorry.” Maybe “We’re sorry.” If your apology includes the words “if,” “but,” or especially “however” it is not an apology. It’s a justification, which is not the same thing.

I’m adding “also” to the list.

Frum started this on Twitter. If he had ended it there, instead of writing a piece for The Atlantic, it would have looked like this (without the link):

2. Include the right stuff in your apology:

In November, Poynter’s Al Tompkins broke down all the kind of apologies we witnessed in 2013. He also included ingredients for how to do it right. They are:

– Act like you mean it
– Promise it won’t happen again
– Explain how you will fix things
– Stop making the same mistakes

3. If you can’t stop talking, for heaven’s sake, don’t include links to fringe websites to back you up.

On Thursday, Adam Weinstein wrote about Frum’s apology for Gawker and took a look at the site Frum cites when explaining why he’s skeptical in the first place.

That link in Atlantic senior editor David Frum’s post leads to a most fascinating website, zombietime.com. It’s fascinating because even Wikipedia’s editors call Zombietime “a fringe self-published website,” adding that it “is not a reliable source and should not be used as a reference for anything on Wikipedia except its own article. This includes both text and images.”

As evidence, the Wikipedia critics point out that Zombietime concocted a pro-Israel conspiracy theory about 2006 photos from the Mideast conflict—a theory that hoaxed an Australian foreign minister in much the same way Frum was hooked in last week.

Here are a couple other reactions to Frum’s apology:

Erik Wemple: “It’s precious that in a post about his credulity, Frum would credit himself with skepticism. That’s precisely what he didn’t exercise here.” (The Washington Post)

– From BagNews, which reported on the story earlier this week:

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Gawker hires NYT’s Leah Finnegan, who ‘hates the right people’

Leah Finnegan, a staff editor at the New York Times, has joined Gawker as senior editor. Finnegan “has a good Instagram account and hates the right people,” Gawker Editor-in-Chief Max Read says in a memo to staffers, assuring them she’ll help “each of you fake intelligence and sophistication day to day.”

Aleksander Chan is also coming on full-time; he broke the story of now-former SiriusXM host Anthony Cumia’s racist tweets. Once Chan starts working mornings, “radio shock jocks should take their Twitter accounts to private,” Read writes.

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What makes a tweet likely to be retweeted? Plus, mobile ad revenue to surpass newspapers

Here’s our roundup of the top digital and social media stories you should know about (and from Andrew Beaujon, 10 media stories to start your day, and from Kristen Hare, a world roundup):

— What makes a tweet likely to be retweeted? An algorithm developed at Cornell thinks it knows, and you can test your predictive powers against it in an interactive quiz at The New York Times by Mike Bostock, Josh Katz and Nilkanth Patel.

— According to eMarketer, revenue from smartphone and tablet ads will surpass revenue from radio, magazine and newspaper ads for the first time this year, Robert Hof writes at Forbes. Mobile will still trail television and desktop/laptop ad revenue, though.

— Mashable’s Brian Ries has a roundup of fascinating Twitter data from yesterday’s U.S.-Belgium World Cup match.

— SCOTUSblog got 20,000 new Twitter followers on Monday after engaging with users who thought the Supreme Court blog’s account was an official Supreme Court account. American Journalism Review’s Cory Blair has a Q&A with SCOTUSblog publisher Tom Goldstein.

— Facebook did its icky emotion-manipulation study for the benefit of you, the customer, Megan Garber of The Atlantic reports from the Aspen Ideas Festival. Said Monika Bickert, head of global policy management: “Most of the research that is done on Facebook—if you walk around campus and you listen to the engineers talking—is all about … ‘How do we better suit the needs of the population using this product, and how do we show them more of what they want to see, and less of what they don’t want to see?’”

— Gawker editor-in-chief Max Read wants internal staff chats to be less of a “time waste,” so he’s making them public. Caroline O’Donovan explores Gawker’s new Disputations vertical at Nieman Lab.


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Gawker suspends staffer after story with ‘several similarities’ to Miami New Times piece

Gawker Editor Max Read has suspended staff writer Jay Hathaway after he posted a story that drew on a Miami New Times story without attribution. An editor’s note now adorns the post.

Reached by email, Read said he didn’t think Hathaway’s post went through an editor, and that Gawker would look at Hathaway’s other writings “As a matter of course.” He also said, “I want to emphasize this is the first time he’s ever been accused of plagiarism, and I have faith that he will never duplicate or fail to cite ever again.”

Read plans to look “at the site as a whole” to make sure “we’re maintaining best ‘how not to blog like a huge prick’ practices,” he writes.

Here’s Read’s memo to Gawker staff:

As soon as I send this email, I’ll be attaching the following note to this post:

On Sunday, the writer Kris Ex called our attention to several similarities between this post and an article by Kyle Munzenrieder in the Miami New Times, located here–specifically, several similar phrasings, one outright identical phrase, and a close structural similarity. The New Times article was not linked to or cited in any way.

The author of the Gawker post, Jay Hathaway, says he read the New Times article before writing his, and “parts of it probably got stuck in my head while I was posting. I didn’t intend to duplicate any of their article, and I definitely meant to link the source prominently.” I believe Jay, but both the inadvertent duplication and the lack of citation are serious errors. Since even the appearance of wrongdoing does serious damage to our credibility and integrity, I’m suspending Jay for a week. Both he and I offer our sincerest apologies to Munzenreider and the New Times.

To reiterate, this is a serious error, and one none of us can afford to make.

We are, and always have been, frank aggregators–by which I mean we are honest about our aggregation. This is of the utmost importance. We are not in the business of hiding links or sources; we are generous with our credits and citations; and we do not present others’ writing as our own. This is a key component of what Hamilton calls “how to blog without being a huge prick.” Our credibility and integrity—our ability to write honestly and critically about other outlets and institutions—is on the line.

Please feel free to email me if you have any questions. I’m happy to meet with any of you privately today.

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Social media roundup: Gawker, USA Today, LA Times open up with tips and insights

Automated tweets get less engagement than handcrafted ones, WhatsApp is making inroads at a USA Today sports site, and sometimes all you can do when a years-old piece takes off on Facebook is shrug.

It’s been a good week for gleaning insights from media outlets, which seem increasingly willing to share which social strategies are working for them. Here’s a rundown of recent social media news you might have missed:

Human tweets RSS tweets

Los Angeles Times social media editor Stacey Leasca shared some tips on Twitter’s media blog this week.

Among her insights was the fact that moving from RSS tweets improved engagement. It’s no surprise that a human touch makes a difference, but it’s interesting to see how much the change seems to have increased the rate at which the newspaper’s accounts are gaining new followers:

A perfect example of this is, again, @LANow. We moved @LANow off of an automated feed in the summer of 2013. The account was then staffed by editors and reporters working in the section. They are our real local experts and the Twitter account quickly became richer with information and much more personal for Angelenos. @LANow quickly went from averaging about 1,500 fans a week to more than 2,500 fans a week.

Few big news outlets use automated tweets

Late last week, Nieman Lab’s Joseph Lichterman gathered a few paragraphs from seven major news outlets about how they manage their Twitter and Facebook accounts. Only one, The New York Times, indicated much reliance on automation. Here’s Daniel Victor, social media staff editor:

By most measures — including clicks, retweets, favorites, and responses — handwritten tweets outperform autotweets. But there are some not-insignificant areas where autotweets win: speed, reliability, and lesser time invested by staff. We aim to have a balance of the two that gives us the benefits of both; it allows us to be both timely and engaging, while still being able to spend time on additional newsroom priorities.

I’ve noticed Times tweets generally seem very by-the-book, to the extent that the occasional tweet with a human flair seems jarring (the tell is that they’re written down-style instead of up-style, as Times headlines are). The Wall Street Journal, perhaps its chief competitor, has embraced pictures and charts on Twitter, and is much more conversational at times. The Journal also liberally retweets its reporters. It’s fascinating to see how much the two newspapers — still somewhat staid in print and on their websites — diverge when it comes to social media.

Ryan Osborn, NBCUniversal News Group vice president of innovation and strategic integration, echoed most of the other outlets’ reasons for choosing not to automate social media posts: “While scaling a strategy 24/7 has taken time, we’ve found that engagement is greater when the accounts are manually curated.”

What’s up with WhatsApp?

After Facebook’s acquisition of the messenger platform in February, I wrote that WhatsApp could become a useful tool for “dark social” content sharing — in other words, an alternative to email for sharing links privately rather than publicly. BuzzFeed had already started experimenting with a WhatsApp button in stories on the mobile Web.

Now, Digiday’s Ricardo Bilton reports that USA Today’s viral, mobile-friendly sports site, FTW, saw 18 percent of its mobile sharing activity come from WhatsApp in its first week of using the WhatsApp share button. That’s more than Twitter:

Sites with sizable youth audiences and content built to be shared should take heed.

The mystery of evergreen Facebook stories

Finally, Gawker editor-in-chief Max Read explored a question today about his site’s traffic: “Why Is Gawker’s Top Story a Four-Year-Old Post About Vajazzling?” Of the post’s near-million page views this week, 96 percent came from Facebook, Read shows in charts and tables. And the traffic pattern for this type of second-life virality differs from what Gawker sees for its daily posts:

Regular, diversified traffic on a decent hit is a quick burst immediately after publication, tapering off throughout the day, a smaller peak for the next day, another valley and on until it flatlines. It hits its peaks around midday and early afternoon, when office workers are at the computers.

Facebook traffic, on the other hand, is a steady rise that doesn’t peak until around 10 p.m. eastern time (and drops off immediately). Weirder still, it gets bigger: Wednesday night, the post was receiving around 7,000 hits an hour at its peak; Thursday, it was hitting 8,000.

Tweets are ephemeral, disappearing from timelines almost as quickly as they appear. But Facebook posts often hang around, and some brands, like Mental Floss, have observed longer shelf lives for posts since the latest News Feed shakeup.

As far as determining what “patient zero” launched Gawker’s four-year-old viral sensation goes, Read wrote that all he could was shrug: ¯\(°_o)/¯


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Globe and Mail paid $10,000 for latest Ford crack pictures. Gawker got them for free

The Globe and Mail | Gawker

The Globe and Mail paid $10,000 for still images from the latest video that shows Toronto’s mayor, Rob Ford, smoking what a drug dealer described to the newspaper as crack cocaine.

This time, Gawker didn’t break the news, but they did run the photos and they got them for free. Editor-in-chief Max Read details how he got those photos in a story published Wednesday night.

“We haven’t paid Jermaine’s friend anything,” Read wrote Poynter in an email. “He emailed again this morning to say that the video was still in his possession and still for sale, but obviously its value has gone down a bit.”

Gawker did make the front of the Toronto Star on Thursday, however. Formerly the news home of reporter Robyn Doolittle, who broke the story for The Globe and Mail, the Star ran this as their front on Thursday.

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Publications aim to make debunking as popular as fake images

Adrienne LaFrance and Matt Novak live in different cities and write for different sites in the Gawker Media network. LaFrance is a freelancer who contributes to several other publications. Novak works full-time on his blog, Paleofuture, which is part of Gizmodo.

She often writes about tech and media. He writes about past visions of the future.

Despite the differences, LaFrance and Novak recently converged on the same idea: debunking hoaxes and misinformation as a regular feature.

LaFrance writes the Antiviral column for Gawker, which carries the headline “Here’s What’s Bullshit on the Internet This Week.” She identifies trending misinformation and new hoaxes and digs into them to reveal what’s fake.

Novak’s debunking effort, which appears roughly monthly, focuses on calling out fake images. He particularly likes debunking images from the many historical pictures accounts that sprouted up on Twitter, unleashing a stream of fake, Photoshopped and unattributed images claiming to be from the past.

Both efforts began at the end of last year, just before Charlie Warzel of BuzzFeed declared that 2014 would be the “Year Of The Viral Debunk.” Soon after that post appeared published, Paulo Ordoveza, who I previously profiled, decided to set up his @PicPedant account. It calls out fake and unattributed images on Twitter.

Aside from the two Gawker Media features and the Twitter image debunkers, The Washington Post now has its own “What was fake on the Internet this week” feature by writer Caitlin Dewey, which appears on the Post culture blog. It launched in March.

As of now, Warzel’s prediction looks prophetic in that we’ve seen the emergence of consistent debunking efforts that are picking up steam in 2014. These new debunkers also speak to how debunking can be integrated to a wide range of efforts, from highly specialized blogs and Twitter accounts to large traditional new organizations and edgier digital efforts.

Making it consistently viral, however, will take more work…

Debunking as a reporting lens

LaFrance pitched the Antiviral column to John Cook, then Gawker’s editor, because she saw it in part as an opportunity to tell stories that others miss. Novak debunks because it helps expose the tendency for people to glorify or condemn the past at the expense of truth.

Both apply a level of reporting and research to their work. After all, nobody wants an unreliable debunker.

“My goal is always to have reporting behind it because it’s very easy to Google the hoax and aggregate what people have already done,” LaFrance said. “I’d much rather go deeper. One reason so much gets shared is people not taking time to put out a call or do the emailing back and forth with PR people  — and we need to do that.”

LaFrance and Novak are using debunking as a lens to discover the true story behind a fake thing. That’s one of the promises of adopting the debunker’s lens — you reveal the things other people missed.

“Just saying something is fake isn’t as interesting as saying where it came from,” LaFrance said.

For Novak, debunking is also way to pursue a defining narrative of his blog.

“I decided to do the first post because my specialty is past visions of the future,” he said. “I tend to look at a lot of aspirational images … I think it’s interesting to look at how we can both romanticize the past and also judge it so harshly. I think that both are strains of when you see people passing around things from historical picture accounts on Twitter. It’s often, ‘Oh look at how awful things were’ or about how much better were.”

I asked him what the viral, fake image of Teddy Roosevelt riding a moose in deep water represented for people.

“I think that speaks to the great man myth of history we want so desperately to believe,” he said. “It’s about, ‘Look at how much more badass masculine our leaders used to be.’ ”

This is one thing to recognize about manufactured fakes and hoaxes: they often, though not always, are an attempt to expose something about society, to express a point of view or emotion, to get a reaction.

Real-time debunking

During breaking news situations and disasters, however, rumors and misinformation spread in part because of the tremendous uncertainly and sense of danger. People pass things along because the information seems urgent and important.

In that moment, all of us have an innate desire to share what we are seeing as a way to make sense of what’s happening. That gives rise to another type of debunking, where speed is needed to match the flow of false information.

Hurricane Sandy was an important moment for real-time debunking. Efforts at BuzzFeed, The Atlantic and the “Is Twitter Wrong?” Tumblr from U.K. journalist Tom Phillips came to the forefront.

A debunked image, from The Atlantic.

When Sandy hit, Phillips was working as international editor for MSN U.K. (He now works for BuzzFeed U.K.) He decided to test whether it would be possible to deliver real-time debunking, using a Tumblr and Twitter account.

“Part of the reason I did it in the first place was as an experiment to see if it was possible,” Phillips told me when we spoke by phone last year. “You know, would that fit into sort of a daily workflow in a newsroom, in that kind of context, or would it just become a massive, massive time suck? And the answer from that was basically yeah, you can do it. You can do an awful lot of it in a way that actually fits in with a daily workflow pretty well.”

Phillips said he’s seen debunking become more a part of breaking news coverage. By the time of the Boston bombings and Sandy Hook shootings, he said, “I saw an awful lot of journalists were actively going out doing debunking. Debunking is now part of reporting, basically.”

It’s become a regular part of his work, too. Earlier this year he produced a very BuzzFeed post, “14 Incredible But Fake Viral Images — And The Twitter Account Debunking The Picspammers.”

In a bit of debunking inception, the story called out fake images as a way to introduce people to @PicPedant.

But is it viral?

Nick Denton, the head of Gawker Media wrote in a memo to staff last year that, “the crowd will eventually choose the juicy truth over a heartwarming hoax.”

It was something of an endorsement of debunking. But he’s also expressed skepticism about the virality of debunking:

 

There can be home runs from debunking. Deadspin’s Manti Te’o story, published more than a year ago, is approaching 4.5 million views. Novak said his photo debunkings have done major traffic for Gizmodo, with one post garnering more than 700,000 views. LaFrance’s Antiviral column broke 100,00 views on the first attempt, but hasn’t done that again since.

Phillips told me that, “I think you’ll find that [debunking] can be, you know, it can actually be as popular and as viral as the untrue stuff.”

To truly get there, we’ll need to more journalists and others bringing different perspectives and applying different approaches to debunking. Tint the debunking lens in new ways. We’ll need to take lessons from the creators of viral fakes and from viral wizards like Upworthy, and to think about ways to get people to accept the truth rather than the lie.

For now, to get better debunking, we need more debunking. Read more

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