Tag Archives: newspaper

Were the Christmas miracle mother and baby “saved” from epidural?

Ah the miracle of medicine, look how much you’ve done for women and babies. Birthing in the Western World is no longer fraught with danger, thanks to your hand.

Or is it?

Image: renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The oh-so convenient Christmas miracle story splashed internationally across mass media headlines of a Coloradan woman and her baby dying through childbirth and then “inexplicably” being revived held readers spellbound. It was the perfect gift for editors – as a front page, it sold papers.

But media did not report the facts – they just told a good story.

In birth, medicine has moved beyond monitoring women and fixing stuff that goes wrong to getting in there and making birth a “medical procedure.” Whether a woman is likely to birth successfully without intervention or not is not considered when offering everything from epidurals to c-sections to “patients” who are armed with the gift of choice, but not the gift of a full education about the side-effects each of these interventions carry.

Do they know that as soon as you introduce one intervention, the likelihood of more being required is exponentially higher? Epidurals lead, often, to more intervention. Why? Because blind freddy can tell that if you can’t feel your body, if you muck around with its ability to do the work it was naturally trying to do, then it’s going to be more likely to repay you in kind. Epidurals are not headache tablets for birthing. Too many women believe they are. Too many women give their birthing up to medicine with no reasonable or rational cause. They’re missing out on the most powerful experience of their lives – and often recovering from major abdominal surgery. Society is also paying through the nose for these unnecessary surgeries. Over 30% of American women now have c-sections. Before long it will be the “normal” way to birth.

Media did not question the fact that Tracy and Mike Hermanstorfer were being “prepped for childbirth” in a medicalized setting with pitocin delivered and an epidural being inserted, and that apparently coincidentally Tracy’s heart stopped after the epidural. (There is real research into the side-effects of epidurals… this link to the American Pregnancy Association states more than 50% of American women have epidurals – but if you read to the end, the very real possibility of cascades of intervention and medical trauma directly related to the epidural, including severely lowering heart rates of both mother and baby are basically outlined. And that’s if they put it in correctly.)

Henci Goer reported on this story yesterday, for Lamaze International. She outlines the details of potential medical responsibility in the trauma endured by this family. Additionally, in ABC News’s video interview with the doctor and Hermanstorfers, the cascade of intervention is described – but the reporting does absolutely nothing to question further about those interventions.

Traditional media are failing us in reporting on birth. We are so accepting of medicalised birth that media do not question medical responsibility in this family’s trauma. Instead, it celebrates the “Christmas miracle” that sells its papers – and the UK’s Daily Mail even went so far as to credit the doctor for bringing back lifeless Tracy. Again, the business model gets in the way of good journalism. Find the quickest story that sells the paper and pulls a heartstring, not the story that takes research and investigation.

I know many religious people have already adopted this story, calling it God’s hand at work. Others will say “thank goodness she was in a hospital (where our human-made gods are) – what would have happened if she were at home?”

What indeed.

I’ll pay for content when there’s Twitter with penguins

Usually, I don’t consciously pay for content. I say ‘consciously’ because if I click on a link and there’s a paywall, I won’t do it. I also don’t subscribe to any newspapers or magazines (online or in ‘dead tree’ format). Basically, the quality of the content I’m seeing doesn’t make me want to pay for more of it.

Mr Murdoch does have the right idea. Getting people to pay for content is definitely a way forward. But News Corp. is missing the biggest opportunity they have. It’s a global organization, and while about 1% of their content producers are the best in the world, they are still.. the best. Why doesn’t News identify that globally based 1%, and put it in a paid-for format? At a really, really high price?

If Mr Murdoch thinks that I, or anyone else, will pay for the other 99% of his writers who are complete crap, then he’s mistaken. I’d rather read the far more professional blogs, with the diversity of opinions and transparency News cannot offer.

After freelancing, creating content for a few different publishers it also appears that organizations don’t like to pay their contributors. Waiting six months for a payment on any work done is not a viable business model. I don’t know why some people think it’s all hunky dory. And it’s been this way for many years.

So I don’t pay for content, and I’m wary of accepting any freelance job at all these days. Because I simply don’t like waiting to be paid when my time is better spent on more pressing things.

But my kids? That’s another thing entirely. I currently pay for three social network memberships. And while I’m a member of about 15 social networks, none of these payments are for me. They’re for my kids. My kids totally expect to pay to get access to information, community and technology. They’re growing up with a pay-for-it frame of mind. At the moment it’s a mum-pay-for-it model, and I’m fine with that because the quality of content accessed by my kids on networks like Club Penguin is really worth $5.95 a month. It’s a vibrant community, with great quality stuff. If organizations continue to treat them this way, by the time they’re my age they’ll be paying for content, and believing they should.

But a key part will be getting rid of the 99% of crap for adults and creating something worth subscribing to. We need a Club Penguin for grown ups.

Sidebar: For the “something shiny” HCI people: Twitter with penguins. Now we’re talking.



More than deputies: A definition of journalism for the 21st Century

Let’s confirm who professional journalists are: People (trained or not), paid to produce content under the mastheads of traditional news outlets.

Let’s confirm what they’re supposed to do: This is a tricky one. No matter how many times I have asked, and how many people, across Australia, the USA and the UK, nobody can give me a core definition of journalism. Maybe it’s a secret. A magician’s code. Part of the smoke and mirrors used to convince everyone they’re worth being paid for over anyone without a mogul. Professional journalists promote their work as a noble art, one that demands a rigor most can not attain. With prompting, a professional journalist will usually agree you need training, you need balance, fairness, fact collection and analysis.
In a conversation I had on Twitter with people in Australia following the Twitter’s Impact on Media and Journalism mini-conference (actually a 2-hour seminar of sorts), Brad Howarth, a professional journalist who was attending says journalism will not be “harmed or replaced by Twitter.” Another Australian, Renai Lemay, followed his presentation at the same conference with a post for ZDNet where he likens his role as a professional journalist to a knight, protecting the honour of a “great lady of noble birth” and describes Twitter as a “playground for pleasure of journalists.” Somewhere to reconnect with the audience. While Renai seeks to support Twitter’s role, he demonstrates a very Lipmann-esque view – it’s still them and us, and being able to play amongst the great unwashed is a novel way of “cutting the fat out of journalism.”

Bringing it to the US, last night, on Lou Dobbs’ show on CNN, the Face Off segment featured a rather strange topical area of ‘Social Networks & Journalism: Is traditional media obsolete?’, Professor Robert Thompson of Syracuse University held the same line as Renai. He described citizen journalists as “acting like deputies … it’s just like we used to use eyewitnesses.” In what was supposedly a debate (which Dobbs pointedly remarked at the start he hoped would be won by Professor Thompson), Micah Sifryn, co-founder of the Personal Democracy Forum began well by saying “anyone can commit and act of journalism.” However he followed that up by agreeing with Lou Dobbs that it “takes more than just holding up your mobile phone and filming stuff and then putting it online to be a journalist.”

Oh really?

My issue is that all of this is either a. focused on the media used for journalism rather than what journalism actually is, or  b. garbled propaganda nonsense.

Let me be clear. For those who don’t know me, I was a traditional, paid journalist for 15 years. I then moved to Public Relations, and then into teaching journalism, marketing, PR, event management and advertising at college. Happily, I’m back in traditional professional journalism myself, as the Boulder Startup Examiner for Examiner.com. (I make enough for a cup of coffee a week). I’m even currently undertaking graduate research in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at CU in Boulder (on social media communities), and I TA on the Intro to Journalism and Intro to Advertising classes. I’m a co-founder of a startup which will enable people to create more content and make better connections online. I’m pretty well engaged on all fronts.

And my question is thus: If traditional, professional journalists (those I’ve identified above) want to say what they do is different to what is able to be done by anyone else, I believe they have to say what makes it so, in order to be understood. So let me help you professionals out. The book, Elements of Journalism, authored by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosentiel, provides 10 elements of journalism. They are:

1. Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth.
2. Its first loyalty is to the citizens.
3. Its essence is discipline of verification.
4. Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover.
5. It must serve as an independent monitor of power.
6. It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise.
7. It must strive to make the significant interesting, and relevant.
8. It must keep the news comprehensive and proportional.
9. Its practitioners must be allowed to exercise their personal conscience.
10. The rights and responsibilities of citizens to be media literate.

But I’m questioning these traditional elements. While the 10th Element only appeared in this text in 2007 as a direct response to the power of Web 1.0, I believe it’s time to entirely redefine the concept of journalism. To strip it back and challenge the notion of what it is – a notion that has root in the medium, not the craft. All of the above elements of journalism reflect a somewhat Lipmann-esque attitude. But at last in the 21st Century, John Dewey really gets a turn. At journalism’s very core is one thing – communication. So I’ve developed a new definition of what journalism is:

Journalism is communication through any means that enables two things – a. the transmission of factual information about all factors that make up society, and b. validation, authentication and discussion of opinions, beliefs and commentary.

In the past, given the limited and expensive range of tools open to people, journalists were defined as a separate group of people. Training in the media they worked in, and how best to ‘do’ journalism to communicate messages were the focus. But those constraints have left us. The best journalism does not rely on the old elements – nor the old media. It doesn’t rely on training, or a paypacket.

Will journalism still exist when the moguls move onto more profitable ventures? Yes. Is it noble and necessary for democracy? Yes. Does it need defending? No (from what?). Is it the realm of the few? No, not any more. It’s not Twitter that is changing it. It’s Web 2.0. All social media. It’s going to be even greater when even more people are creating the content. That’s democracy.

A completely new form and hope for democracy

I do wish people would stop analysing the ‘death of print’ and focus on the future of journalism. There are so many traditional media with stories like the nicely titled “Is democracy written in disappearing ink” which attempt to say journalism will die along with the traditional formats. While I like the title, the answer if obviously “only if you guys want it to!”

Suck it up people. Democracy is alive and well, and professional journalists have never had a better opportunity to tell all the stories they need to tell. The web gets rid of all your publishers, advertisers… financial concerns which could be seen to impact on your ‘professionalism’. If your primary focus is to make money, then I’m putting it to you that democracy doesn’t sit well with that.

If the key to democracy is myriad voices gaining exposure, then democracy has never been better served.

An exciting time for journalism

The print edition of the Rocky Mountain News has hit the newsstands for the last time. It’s no secret that I have little time for those who are crying over the death of print. In fact, I believe that journalism has never had better opportunities than right now.The money in media has not just ‘disappeared’. It’s still there. The only difference is that now the playing field is opened up and the best will get their hands on the dollars – instead of it being limited to the few who could afford the cushioning luxury of an established masthead.

If established mastheads had moved effectively online, then their brands would survive. I firmly believe that in any business if the market likes your product then you survive. And media are no different. Do a good job, meet market need, and you survive.

The Rocky tried to go online, but all they did was degrade the quality and credibility of their brand in the process. They did a Web 1.0 operation and faked a bit of Web 2.0 by including unmoderated reader comments on everything from murders to the weather. The Rocky added absolutely nothing to the print edition by going online. All they did was further deplete the paid for market.

And that’s not a bad thing. Print newspapers are about the most environmentally unsound yet ‘accepted’ standard thing here in Colorado. I find it completely ridiculous that there are environmental reporters who are crying over the death of the newspaper. But I digress… (as usual)

The Rocky Mountain News online masthead is still up for sale, along with its archives. And it’s the only thing that would be worth buying anyway. So if I had the money, this is what I’d do:

1. Spend money on a relaunch of the Rocky online. Brand it as the community news source it built its reputation on.

2a. Run a couple of workshops for the public on how to be a part of the new Rocky, including how to contribute stories (in either text, video, audio or all of them).

2b. Invite the community to contribute news stories to be edited and considered for publication.

3. Vet the contributions as they come in, and invite contributors to make adjustments as needed.

4. Invite the most vocal, opinionated people to write regular paid columns.

5. Trawl the web to add value to the articles posted (and aim to do it with every story) – by linking to relevant educational sites, background info, interactive elements, etc. This includes other newspapers/sources. It means journalism really gets to be transparent, credible, authentic. You know, all that stuff it should always have been.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it until I’m purple in the face – the future of journalism is social. And involving the community to contribute to their own news source means democracy and the essential recommendations of the Hutchins Commission in the 1940s will be enabled far better than it ever was before.

That’s why this is an exciting time for journalism. The only sobbing I’m doing is over the traditional journalists that don’t see it.

Why you shouldn’t read print

Since moving to Boulder I’ve actually started picking up the local free newspaper each day, but I’m over it. Why? I read it online and believe it’s the cheapest, easiest way of helping the environment – even easier than all that other recycling we do.

In Australia to get a paper you need to visit a newsagent, or the train station – basically have a human interaction. But here in the US, there are a plethora of newsboxes (I dunno what they’re actually called) all around the place – everywhere – carrying an assortment of daily newspapers, catalogues, classifieds. Almost anything! Many of them are free, and those that aren’t are cheap to buy. The Daily Camera is only 50c (the Sunday edition is $1). You put the money in the slot and it lets you pull the handle open to grab your paper. While in Sydney we have about 4 generally available mass media newspapers, here there are at least twice that.

This seems great – it’s so convenient, there’s never a line for the paper, and it’s so cheap it’s easy to pick it up to read on the bus or whatever. And on a Sunday morning, you don’t have to make conversation.

That’s the big difference. The quality of news in these papers is shocking. The Colorado Daily is really crap. The writing is complete drivel. The topics are ridiculous. There is no real news. The best part is the comics. And even then, whomever is editing it sometimes runs the same comic two days or more straight. The Boulder Weekly, another free paper, is a bit better, but really – it’s a good thing they’re free. Nobody in their right mind would pay for this crap. The writing is grammatically incorrect, badly edited – it looks like a 4th grade paper. It’s simply not professional in any sense of the word, let alone ‘journalism’. Sort of like a cut down, free version of Sydney’s Daily Telegraph.

But that gets me on to ‘good quality’ print – you know, the stuff you expect to pay for. The real journalism.

The Daily Camera and The Rocky Mountain News, which are like Sydney’s Daily Telegraph in the ‘real’ sense, have been running subscription campaigns. Get it cheaper and you’ll save! Big frigging deal. I can read both of them online… for free!

And there’s nothing left of it when I’m done. No papers laying around to put in the recycling.

That’s the biggest deal of all – the environmental cost. The New York Times, one of the most respected newspapers in the world, is also available online. Consider this: 314 acres of trees are cut down for every single edition of the Sunday New York Times. 

314 acres. Gone. Because people like something tangible to hold with their coffee on Sundays; and then they chuck it out come Monday morning. 

For a world of people who are becoming more aware of global warming and all the associated issues of environmental catastrophes, surely we owe ourselves and our kids those 314 acres.

Join me. Demand great journalism from your traditional mastheads, but demand it online. Leave the paper on the trees where it belongs.

MSM journalism and Twitter

Moving online has caused Mainstream Media (MSM) quite a few headaches. I explored this a little during my Pubcamp presentation earlier this year.

Unlike many, I believe there is still life in MSM yet – they just have to learn to adapt to the new environment and, staying true to their code of ethics, make the most of new media in a way which better serves the audience.

Too many MSM consider they are making use of new media by simply having an online space. Quality of MSM journalism has taken a nose-dive as the stress of creating content (repurposed or not) on a continuing cycle for the online entities has reduced the time available for researching and fact checking. The seemingly limitless amounts of space online, and the audience demand for updated news combines with the advertisers’ demand for minute-by-minute hit ratios.

Any ethical news organisation would reasonably buckle under that pressure. And many have.

It’s time for MSM to look beyond coming up with new ‘stories that aren’t’ and flimsy angles on old agendas in order to maintain their readership. It’s time to revisit your mission, reconsider who you serve, and then integrate new media to that end.

The whole reader comment thing is really iffy for MSM. I believe in brands. Whether online or in print, MSM is professional and has a branding that reflects their years of commitment. A stamp of professionalism if you like. When you run a slurry of reader comments online under news stories you invite commentary that is neither professional nor reflects your branding. We are seeing stories that are 300 words long but which have 2000 words of reader comments, most of which is simply diatribe – or worse, just plain offensive bigotry.

Who does that serve?

Additionally, you have your reporters running their own blogs which are nothing more than a bit of fluff that nobody, not even your MSM journo’s themselves, take seriously. Honestly, you’re getting it wrong. If it’s not fit to print then why do you believe it’s fit for the web?

No wonder your sales continue to slide.

The Rocky Mountain News (RMN) and a few other organisations are to be congratulated for looking further into new media. The RMN is trying to use Twitter. But so far MSM hasn’t got its head around the possibilities of social networking tools, and it’s falling a bit short.

So if you’re listening, here’s what you need to do.

Train your journalists in social media and focus on the social aspect. Twitter can be used as a broadcast tool, sure, but that’s not its limitation. In fact, why not tell your audience that you’ll be at a certain event, and ask them to get online and use the journalist as their eyes and ears at that event? Yes, Twitter goes two ways!

I can see a really great potential here for MSM to make a mark using social media, and for the professionalism and integrity of journalism to get a real kick back on track. MSM can offer its very wide audience the opportunity to be part of the democratic, authentic, balanced journalism the public seeks. Sure you can use Twitter as an advertisement link to other news stories, but that’s simply advertising. Why not integrate the tool in your reporting and at the same time bond with your audience?

Now that’s something I’d love to see. That’s something that will get people believing in you again.