As trust far as trust in media goes, funny how radio beats the Internet

Interesting how the one place we associate with up-to-the-minute information is the least trusted. While what some would call ‘old school’ media –Radio! –consistently earns people’s trust.

Among several studies looking at media trustworthiness I was fascinated by this European study. (Trust in Media, 2017 by EBU)/ Some highlights:

  • 64% of countries surveyed find radio the most trusted
  • 59% of citizens in the EU trust radio
  • Social networks are the least trusted (except in eastern Europe)
  • In 12 out of 33 countries 64% of citizens mistrust the Internet

Check these snapshots. The Internet is seeing red!










It gets worse on networks we sign up to –if only to connect with those whom we assume are trustworthy.










Which begs the questions.

  • How did we get here?
  • Or better still, why have we – who often comprise the ‘sources’ of news on social networks –misused the resource?

Cartoonists and bloggers under siege

It’s odd how politicians hold a cartoonist and bloggers up to tough standards once reserved for ‘The Media.’

Political cartoonists in particular, hold a lens up to our world, enabling us to see events in a different perspective. I think of a cartoonist as more than a lens, in fact. A mirror and a lens – a kaleidoscope. You see something new every time you turn your head.

Malaysian cartoonist, ZUNAR, known for his powerful editorial cartoons for 20 years, has been getting under the skin of the ruling class. In 2010 he was arrested just before his book “Cartoon-O-Phobia” was launched. The crime? Sedition! Interestingly sedition laws exist in many countries.

We often hear of France’s Charlie Hebdo being threatened. But cartoonists have been under siege.

  • Likewise, bloggers, especially political writers have been attacked in countries such as Ecuador, South Africa, India, and Sri Lanka.
  • In Bangladesh, four bloggers have been murdered.

Media Illiteracy prevails, and the adults aren’t off the hook

As our modes of communication grow smarter, we seem to be doing a shoddy job of using them. This is not just about the misuse of Twitter, of which dumb tweets are legion. Such as a Time correspondent firing off a tweet wishing for a drone strike on Julian Assange in 2013. This is about young people who have too powerful publishing tools at their disposal. If you like to know more, you will love this compilation!

This week, six High School students in Arizona got themselves and their school into serious trouble, using SnapChat. They got a picture of themselves taken wearing shirts that spelled out a racial slur. They learned, too late, that an app’s ability to ‘communicate’ should not define the message. (If none of them had data-enabled mobile devices would anyone have even bothered setting up the shot?).

An editorial in the Arizona Republic asked how students who have gone through a curriculum that probably included close reading and discussion of the civil war era, could have been so crass.

It’s hard to imagine these girls got this far in school without reading the ugly chapters in American history about the enslavement and oppression of Black people. Did they fail to pay attention? Did they fail to connect the dots to real people?

Let’s not get parents off the hook. How much time are we spending with young people to inform them about media use? It’s easy to be tool literate and media stupid.

Here are some thoughts for parents who may be considering giving a teenager (actually pre-teens, now) a mobile device:

  1. You pay for the phone and the data plan. You own the device; you set the rules. A phone is not like a pair of shoes, it doesn’t have to belong to the end-user.
  2. You better decide on the apps that get on the phone. Don’t complain later when a kid is spending too much time on Insta-brag or Brat-chat. I mean Instagram and Snapchat.
  3. Like your car keys, devices not owned by a child should be stored outside of bedrooms at night.
  4. It’s possible for homework assignments to be completed without digital devices. Really!
  5. Make sure your child makes every effort to not be in a video taken by a fellow insta-bragger.
  6. Finally, make sure your child’s school has a policy that has been updated to match the ubiquity and speed of shared media. It’s no longer valid to call it a ‘social media policy’. It’s a device use policy.

Baiting the media, achieves nothing – except an ego boost

Donald Trump is more entertainment for the media, than a front-runner per se. They may not want to admit this, but especially in the US, where campaigns are fought and won with war-like strategy, it’s always been useful (to the media) when there’s a wild-card.

Think Sarah Palin. 

It seems as if Trump is trying desperately to fill the void left by Sarah Palin (remember her attack on lamestreammedia?) Which is why his attack on Jorge Ramos of Univision, is enlightening. He knows it will guarantee coverage.

Sadly this is also the strategy of terror organizations, as we have seen in recent months.

Think ISIS, and its despicable acts against journalists.

Or Wednesday’s cold-blooded murder of two reporters in Virginia. The killer seemed to anticipate that this would get him media coverage, making sure he distributed the story himself, via social media. A pretty pathetic use of social media,or any media for that matter. He was just looking for attention, not change.

Update on my book: “Chat Republic”

It’s official, and I’m now ready to announce the title of my book, which is in its final stages.

It’s called Chat Republic.

Angelo Fernando, Chat RepublicI’ve been covering the intersection of technology and business; technology and culture for more than 18 years. More recently, I’ve focused on digital media and our social media-centric lives, and I wanted to put my ideas into perspective.

Chat Republic is more than a fictional country. It’s about the spaces you inhabit.  Those online and offline communities you move in and out of: conference rooms, Google Circles, IM lists, Facebook, online forums. I think of it as a ‘country’ whose fluid borders take the shape of a giant, invisible speech bubble.

The conversations and opinions pouring in and out of our republic, in real-time, are what make our communities more civil, more vibrant. Our chats are certainly not friction-free! But absent these conversations we would be one dimensional citizens, won’t we?

As of today, I am planning to launch the book in two time zones, in June.

Some specs:

  • 25 Chapters – Divided into 3 sections
  • Case Studies from the U.S. and Asia
  • Interviews with non-profits, tech companies, activists, chief execs, editors, citizen journalists, PR consultants, podcasters, government officials

More information here at

What will we lose when books die?

I’ve been struggling with what might be the long-term implications of focusing too much on digital books, and less and less on the those made from dead trees. We know, how for practical reasons, libraries have been looking away from book stacks and into what e-books could offer.

I also noted recently my disappointment at one aspect of the ‘death of print’ –  the news that Britannica is ceasing to go into print. Some of my friends thought it was a good thing. One said it was cumbersome to have to dig into journals for knowledge he needed fast.  I was interested not in what it meant for us in the now, as to what it meant for present younger (and future) generations, who automatically think that search engines index and reveal everything there is to know on a particular subject.

So I was glad to stumble on Matthew G. Kirschenbaum’s point of view. He is the associate professor of English at the University of Maryland, and author of “Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination.”

Walking the stacks, following a footnote or checking out what’s on the shelf above P96.T42K567 2007 is a bit like getting a glimpse at the ducts and plumbing behind the drywall. Or the Web site’s source code.

He goes on to say that books teach us to ask the key questions “Who wrote that? Where are the competing voices? How is it organized? By what (and whose) terms is it indexed? Does it have pictures? Can I write in it myself?”

Libraries are wonderful content gardens that rejuvenate the mind. I have a few that I love, and one that really irks me, but I still go back! I always wondered why they draw me and my children.After all, aren’t they gravitating to all things digital?

Kirschenbaum’s explanation is so apt: “Even the grossest physical failings of books and libraries, the maddening frustration of the book that is lost or checked out just when you need it most can instill an important lesson: knowledge is proximate.

Indeed!  It’s hard to accept that not everything is a click away!

Trust in media went up. Really?

If you’ve been following the Edelman Trust Barometer over the past few years, you’ve known that this the value of this ingredient has had impossible to predict. The 2012 Trust barometer did, however throw some surprises.

Government is the least trusted institution. What else is new?

Trust in the media actually rose in the past year! (That has to be impressive, considering that two years ago, a Pew Research study found it to be at an all time low, with Americans who were aghast with inaccurate and biased news.). Gains were in India, UK, the US and Italy. Which is counter intuitive, considering how the Murdock scandal tainted much of the British media last year. Not surprisingly, social media, recorded the biggest gains in media trust.

More details here from Edelman Insights

Time to teach ‘media literacy’ to kids

I have two rules in the about TV for my daughter. (1) No watching TV from Monday through Thursday. (2) No turning to watch commercials when someone else is watching a program.

I’ve imposed rule #2 in spite of –perhaps because of– the fact that I once worked in advertising. I appreciate the fact that it is the commercial material that pays for the content in the media. But since Media Buying and its cousin Media Planning  is quite a science, with a wicked –often desperate — streak parents need to be vigilant. It is not accidental that advertisers deliberately place family unfriendly message in family programs. Few know that such a thing as product placement (and such things as ‘adver-games‘) exist to “regain the attention of consumers who can avoid advertising (by) using digital video recorders” etc.

I cannot begin to count how many parents have told me how they have had to do something about preventing their pre-teen son or daughter seeing trailers of movies that have a rating of PG-17 or higher. Because my wife and I are in education, we are constantly asked about how to deal with the problem. But while we rail against TV, let’s not forget the Internet could also be an equally bad influence when children use it unsupervised.

My first response is usually a question: “Do you have a TV in the bedroom?” If the answer is yes, then there is no rule on earth (no filter good enough) that could reduce the impact of the problem. A recent study in Britain found that nearly 8 out of 10 children watch TV by themselves for two hours a day.

My second question is related to  how many hours of TV or internet. The typical answer is “Oh, about 2 hours a day…” Two hours of passive entertainment may seem benign, but it is really two hours of training a young brain to accept information with no critical perspective, no time to reflect on what is presented. Worse, it trains young children to not use alternative sources of information, entertainment, relaxation.(Libraries, trees, sleep!).

But in the end, rules and timers will not be enough. What we need to do is teach our children some basic Media Literacy. Not in some academic way about theories of Marshall McLuhan or Neil Postman (Amusing ourselves to death). What’s needed is a way for parents to be able to tell their children that much of what they see and hear on television was designed to not make them think; that game shows and reality shows are far removed from reality –life simulated on studio sets. And that the emotions displayed in very realistic programs are planned, edited, and the people have been screened and coached.

Sadly, in the British study cited above, 66% of parents didn’t even know the characters or story lines of the shows their kids are watching. Experts who say TV for kids is not so bad recommend ‘co-viewing,’ but in that study 20 percent of parents who co-view approximately “sit in silence with their children.” Other studies have linked television watching to behavioral health problems.

Indeed Media Literacy  is hard, especially when it is easy to turn on the videos in the back seat of the SUV and keep the kids quiet and have an undisturbed chat on your bluetooth. 

Take a cue from the American Academy of Pediatrics which says media education for children could counter the negative effectsof watching violent TV.  Pediatricians have linked food marketing and obesity –an increase of 12 percent with one hour, increasing by 4 to 5 percent for each additional hour.  (May 2011 report).

A rudimentary lesson on media literacy would be a good start for children 4 and up. But it needs to be updated every six months. Later on, when the children grown up and you are fighting the deeper problems of over-sharing on social media, and sexting, you will be thankful you did!

Activists know this: Posters are magnets for media coverage

Capturing a sound byte used to be a great way to thread a breaking story. News organisations such as NPR, or BBC for instance use the formula well. Some use it to balance a story, others, to tilt one in favor of a point of view it wishes to hold up.

Audio is also a great way to capture the ambiance of a particular environment. A machine grinding away on factory floor, a call to prayer from a far away minaret, children on a playground…

So why is it that the poster is suddenly making a comeback? It’s one dimensional, after all!

I think of it as a powerful tool not only because of what it says but how it is displayed. In other words, there is more contextual detail that surrounds a poster that adds to the story, even though it is a frozen moment. Two things come into play that make a poster powerful:

  • The image is at once analog (when printed) and digital (when photographed and preserved in a digital stream).
  • The message feeds a story because it tends to be connected to a human who holds it up, or a group of people in which it seems to be rooted

There is a third element – mystery. The unknown or un-clarified details take on greater significance, goading our curiosity, and our need to fill in the gaps of the larger story.

The protests in the past few weeks in Egypt  demonstrate this. From the simple pen sketches, to the large-font messages to the administration:


No face here, but the reference to another country adds a new dimension to political intrigue in the region.

Adding more context, a paper poster is just another element to counterpoint the heavy machinery around it!