Government needs reminding that they work for us, says Pulitzer-winning reporter Barton Gellman, who describes Edward Snowden as ending an era of indifference to surveillance. By Jemima KissJemima Kiss
Tom McCarthy: Sunday’s HBO Go outage left excited viewers in the dark as users were unable to stream the finale of the hit crime dramaTom McCarthy
Xinhua reports on government training programme designed to control flow of online information on sites such as Sina Weibo
China will produce its first batch of certified "online public opinion management specialists" by way of a week-long training course and a standardised test, reflecting the depth of the government's obsession with controlling the flow of online information.
Training leaders to manage public opinion online "has become an enormous task facing all levels of the government and leadership", according to the country's state newswire, Xinhua.
Since China's president, Xi Jinping, assumed power in late 2012, authorities have tightened their controls over the country's public discourse, doling out harsh punishments to pro-transparency activists and passing draconian legislation to combat the "spread of rumours" online.
During the six-day course – which will run from 27 March to 1 April – experts will use case studies, simulations, and group discussions to teach skills such as "how to correctly recognise online public opinion" and "the art and science of dealing with public opinion online".
The programme will be available to "all government organs and administrative units", including state media, public security departments and petitioning offices, Xinhua reported. It will cost about £680 per person.
The standardised test will take three hours. Participants who pass will be given a certificate by the ministry of industry and information technology, assigning them to one of five ranks: "internet public opinion assistant analyst", analyst, senior analyst, manager and senior manager.
The programme's website outlines the government's approach to a handful of contentious social issues. One article encourages officials to allow a dialogue about individual acts of violence committed during the Cultural Revolution, a catastrophic political movement led by Mao Zedong in the 1960s and 70s. While the government recognises the severity of the event, it has only begun to allow a public discussion of its enduring trauma.
Another lists the challenges of controlling information amid "mass incidents", a term officials often use to describe social unrest.
A third article dissects the phenomenon of influential bloggers – called "Big V" users on Sina Weibo, the country's most popular microblog – emphasising that they must maintain a strict sense of "social responsibility".
"Big V should proactively conform to state management departments in striking down rumours and purifying the online environment," it says.Jonathan Kaiman
Tomorrow MediabistoTV debuts its newest show called, “What’s Your Show?” where we take our cameras into cable and broadcast newsrooms and talk to the anchors and producers to find out what it takes to put their show together each day. The first episode features Shepard Smith and the Fox News Deck. In this preview clip Smith, tells us how “Shepard Smith Reporting” fits in to the Fox News lineup.
New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.
On Sunday morning’s “Reliable Sources,” former Fox News contributor Sally Kohn and radio host Ben Ferguson talked to host Brian Stelter about appearing on networks that carry far different ideological viewpoint than theirs following a Columbia Journalism Review piece that suggested Fox News is more welcoming to opposing views.
Both pointed out the deck being stacked against them: “Wasn’t worth it…it was usually three-on-one,” Ferguson said about MSNBC, adding it wasn’t worth putting makeup on to be used as a punching bag.
“It was often three on one…my favorite was fifteen-on-one,” Kohn said of her time at Fox News, highlighting a Hannity panel where she was the only liberal in a sea of conservatives. Outnumbered or not, Kohn saw a benefit to appearing on Fox.
“In a show like Hannity…from my perspective, as a liberal, as a progressive, I don’t want that to go unquestioned, unchallenged,” Kohn continued about wanting to offer Fox viewers a liberal counterpoint to its conservative hosts.
“Well, it’s good television, and more interesting for viewers when everyone doesn’t agree. I used to argue with Keith Olbermann when he had an MSNBC show that it would be less predictable if he would sometimes debate people on the right. He said he didn’t like such fake debates — but the result was, in those years, endless Bush-bashing.”
And Fox News might have some new competition ahead from the right: Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy talked to Stelter about plans to launch Newsmax TV in June, suggesting his company is already bigger than Fox News.
Both segments after the jump. continued…
New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.
Geoff Garvey, a reporter I enjoyed working with for several years on the Sunday Mirror, has died aged 70.
Enjoyed? Yes, because Geoff's face - as above - was almost always wreathed in a big smile unless, of course, he was arguing about why his story had not got the prominence it so obviously deserved.
He was a passionate, hard-working reporter who lived to break news stories and, over the years, broke many of them.
For 30 years, he ran one of Britain's most successful freelance operations, the Ferrari Press Agency, now based in Sidcup, Kent, while maintaining his Sunday Mirror casual shift every Saturday.
He was chief crime correspondent on the London Evening Standard for much of the 1990s, and was responsible for breaking the story about a former director of public prosecutions being arrested for kerb-crawling.
Geoff was a mentor to many keen young reporters. They found his training invaluable - the reason that so many went on to obtain staff jobs.
He normally worked with just one or two young trainees, encouraging them to learn their trade covering court cases, tribunals and the crime beat.
Colleagues recall that among Geoff's greatest assets were his optimism and persistence, traits traceable to his childhood.
Raised by his mother in Chatham, he secured a place in 1959 at Sir Joseph Williamson's Mathematical School, a grammar school for boys known as the Rochester Maths School.
Described as a shy and quiet boy at school, friends were surprised when, aged 16, he was offered a trainee reporter's post on the Chatham News.
The paper would not accept him until he turned 17 so he took a six-month job with British Rail as a clerk in a Gravesend goods depot.
While at the Chatham News, he dabbled with music management by setting up a talent night at the Rochester Casino Rooms. One night a friend turned up with his band hoping to persuade Geoff to manage them.
But he pulled the plug on them halfway through their first number. "Sorry," he explained to the friend, "you were awful. And if I were you, I'd get rid of that singer." The singer, so it is said, was David Bowie.
After completing his indentures, Geoff had his first spell at Ferrari Press Agency, known ever since as Ferrari of Dartford, and run by Lino "Dan" Ferrari (the news editor of the Daily Mirror in its golden era).
After a spell at the Kensington Post, Geoff joined the Press Association as a reporter. And in 1969, he was offered the opportunity to buy the Ferrari agency. It brought him huge success and satisfaction in the following decades.
In 1990, Geoff took what he called a "proper" job by accepting an offer to be the Standard's chief crime correspondent. He relishing the fact his byline was finally appearing with his stories. But in the mid-1990s, after being diagnosed with a heart condition, he reluctantly resigned.
He returned to freelancing and made contact with the Australian magazine Woman's Day, which hired to read through the first editions of the British national papers each night.
His nightly contact in Sydney was Diane Blackwell and, after flying to Sydney to visit the magazine, he fell in love with her. They married in 1997.
Geoff's health deteriorated in 2012. But despite lengthy spells in hospital his mobile phone and contacts book remained constantly by his side.
He died at the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Woolwich on 6 March. He is survived by his wife Diane, children Antony and Sue, and four grandchildren.
NB: Many thanks to Geoff's Ferrari agency colleagues for providing this material.
Michael Wolff: But the new Newsweek is not the old Newsweek. The internet killed that magazine star long before it started chasing half-truthsMichael Wolff
New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.
Father of Adam Lanza who killed 26 people at Connecticut school tells magazine what son did couldn’t ‘get any more evil’
Viewing conflict on Buzzfeed or Instagram doesn't guarantee authenticity: without context, any 'news' can be manipulated
When I was 19 I read about Plato's Theory of Forms. The theory, crudely put, argues that everything exists in a metaphysical realm in its ideal form, and that everything we have on Earth is a poor attempt to imitate the ideal. So, a cat on Earth is a poor imitation of the ideal cat; and a picture of the earthly cat is even more imperfect because it is even further away from the ideal.
I've been thinking about the Theory of Forms in relation to how conflict is presented through social media. For it seems to me that social media has gained prominence as a medium of conflict reportage because it is seen as closer to reality – or, in Platonic terms, closer to the conflict in its purest form. Traditional media, with its serious reporters, analysts and montages, seems further away from the truth of the conflict: it's a dilution of the purity of the on-the-ground reality.
When I occupied the department store Fortnum & Mason with 145 other people in 2011, word came that the BBC was erroneously reporting that we were rioting inside. To counter that claim I started tweeting pictures of protesters sitting around reading and chatting to staff, and I received messages from people thanking me from providing them with the "real" news.
But were my tweets "real"? There could have easily been a riot taking place a few feet away (there wasn't), and ultimately there was no sound reason for people to believe me rather than the BBC. But I was seen as instinctively more trustworthy, partly because my rudimentary amateur photos seemed more authentic: a more truthful rendering of the protest than what the mainstream media had to offer.
The ultimate example of this is probably the Arab spring, most notably the Egyptian revolution of 2011, which has since spawned a Wikipedia page, "Twitter revolution". In Egypt, where the news media was censored and communication lines cut by compliant telecoms companies, social media was a way of disseminating the reality of revolution to a watching world. The Egyptian state was so determined to suppress communication that using social media was a dangerous act of defiance, and in that sense it seemed purer and more honest.
In 2011 Peter Beaumont wrote that the defining image of the Arab spring was "a young woman or a young man with a smartphone". And sure enough, later in the piece is a photograph of a young Bahraini woman holding up a smartphone displaying a photo of an injured protester. The tacit assumption is that the woman took the photo after witnessing the injury take place: she was close to the reality of the situation, and her photo is the conflict in its purest form.
The rise of social media in conflict situations – not just Twitter, but Buzzfeed, Instagram, YouTube and others – reflects wider trends in the Millennial generation (or Generation Y – people aged between 18 and 33). According to the US thinktank Pew Research, Millennials are "relatively unattached to organised politics and religion, linked by social media, burdened by debt [and] distrustful of people". It's not surprising, then, that new platforms like Buzzfeed have become modern-day news outlets. They seem more anti-establishment, more democratic, zeitgeisty and – with their messy, colloquial format – somehow more honest than traditional media.
But although new or social media has played an important part in bringing us closer to the "real" during conflict, it can also take us further away. Constantly viewing conflict on a Buzzfeed list or Instagram filter can also make it seem unreal, or what cultural theorist Jean Baudrillard might have called the "hyperreal", an exaggerated version of reality which ultimately blurs the boundaries between reality and simulation altogether. Baudrillard would even go so far as to suggest reality is a pointless byproduct in the rush to create or share an experience. Perhaps people Instagram protests because preserving real-life occurrences with a vintage filter now feels more authentic than actually living through them. Perhaps we're so used to the Arab spring narrative of protest that it seems more real to apply that to any unfolding conflict than to understand the real-life context.
In the recent protests in Venezuela, the rightwing opposition has exploited social media to present an image of a progressive popular uprising against a regressive and authoritarian government. As Bradford University's Dr Julia Buxton wrote, "Despite claims that social media 'democratises' the media, it is clear that in Venezuela it has had the opposite effect, exacerbating the trend towards disinformation and misrepresentation, with overseas media groups and bloggers reproducing – without verification – opposition claims and images of student injuries allegedly caused by police brutality and attacks by government supporters."
A Buzzfeed list of 27 "heartbreaking" images of the Venezuelan protests was created, and shared by progressive activists around the world. Perhaps those activists would have been more reticent had they known the Venezuelan opposition largely consists of the country's elite and has been responsible for violence, including beheading a pro-government activist, and that youth organisations, rather than being a spontaneous grassroots uprising, have been backed by the US, including one student leader receiving a $500,000 Milton Friedman prize in 2008. But the Venezuelan opposition was able to slot into existing protest narratives of brave and dynamic protesters rising up against tyrannical regimes.
Huw Lemmey, who has examined the Israeli Defence Forces' Instagram accounts, writes, "perhaps we should have predicted that War 2.0 would look less like Starship Troopers than the early drafts of a footwear campaign or a coffee franchise loyalty-card scheme."
To what extent does social media allow aggressors to co-opt conflict and then present it as something sexy? The most extreme example here seems to be Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad's Instagram account, in which he is pictured with his beautiful wife interacting with the common people. As Emily Greenhouse put it in the New Yorker, "we follow Taylor Swift even though we wouldn't admit it … what does it mean to follow a man strongly suggested to be a war criminal, to have a virtual shrine to a dictators' glory that can fit in our pockets?"
It's worth asking whether the accessible nature of social media normalises conflict, particularly in this era of social upheaval, and encourages us to internalise it as background noise. If we can flick between Taylor Swift and the Syrian civil war, what does that say about the level of serious interest we take in the Syrian civil war?
It's true that in Fortnum & Mason, the protesters were misrepresented by traditional news media, and social media was a welcome antidote. At that time, the pure on-the-ground reality of the protests was hugely important, as that was the terrain upon which our legitimacy as protesters was being fought (that is, where we wanton criminals or conscientious activists?). Without social media, the protest may have been permanently misrepresented as an act of mindless criminality.
But social media, like traditional media, is ultimately just a medium which can exploited like any other – and conflict is not just about images of violence. It is about history, culture, politics and relationships, none of which can be expressed by an Instagram photo of a battlefield. Ultimately, images of an unfolding conflict are not a pure form because they lack context. And the danger with sharing them is that eventually someone with an agenda might just come along and apply a context of their own.Ellie Mae O'Hagan
The New York Times claims that hipsters are wearing monocles in Manhattan, Berlin and Dublin – but that doesn't make it true
I recently read an article saying the latest trend in hipster fashion is the monocle. Can this possibly be true? And if so, where can I get one?
Andrew, by email
Put down your Yellow Pages, my dear Andrew, and desist your search at once. For a start, even if on the remarkably unlikely off-chance it were true, why would you then want to look like everyone else? Surely the whole point of wearing a monocle is to look unique. This is why I never understand these sorts of trend pieces, as they seem to be saying: "Here is this interesting new thing that some people are doing to look different. Why don't we all do it now and look EXACTLY THE SAME?"
For that, you see, is what this article is: a trend piece. Trend pieces form the bulk of fashion journalism – there are, after all, only so many designers to interview and shows to review – and they are to fashion writing what preview pieces are to sports journalism. Just as sports sections are bulked up with articles predicting what a game will be like before the game has happened based on past performances, so fashion sections are filled with the journalistic equivalent of crossed fingers in which fashion writers predict what the biggest trends of the season will be before the season begins, based on what they saw in the shows. In both of these cases, the sports and fashion journalists can proffer some truly wise insights that help readers better prepare for the future. Also in both of these cases, the sports and fashion journalists can rest assured that no readers will ever remember the predictions beyond tomorrow, therefore it doesn't matter a jot if they're completely wrong because they have pulled their articles out of – as we in the fashion journalism business like to put it – their derrière. And this derrière is a particularly popular source for the articles published in the very section where you espied this article about monocles: the New York Times style section.
So as I said, all fashion journalists knock trend pieces out and all fashion publications publish them. So why single out the New York Times style section, you haven't actually asked yet I shall answer nonetheless? I shall tell you, Andrew: because the New York Times style section is easily the most off the wall fashion section in the world. There are plenty of fashion publications that are pathetically obsessed with money (the US version of Harper's Bazaar), or society (Tatler, W magazine), or with non-existent issues of coolness (AnOther, Dazed & Confused). But it is rare to find a fashion section in a quality newspaper that is straight out bizarre.
The New York Times is a great paper, one of the best in the world, and – unusually for an American paper – as interested in foreign coverage as it is in US coverage, let alone just New York coverage. So, in other words, it has its editorial eye on a pretty wide demographic. Its style section, however, is apparently aimed at about 10 white people on the island of Manhattan, all of whom live on Park Avenue. If even I – who grew up in a Manhattan neighbourhood that would look familiar to fans of Woody Allen movies, and who loves and writes about fashion – find the New York Times style section utterly bewildering, then it's safe to say most other readers do, too. I'm not even talking about the beyond parody Vows section, which appears in the style section every Sunday and which I've discussed at length previously. I'm referring instead to the section's veneration of pretentious and privileged twentysomethings, its fascination with non-existent trends from Brooklyn, its promotion of incredibly overpriced exotic foods that your nanny must start cooking for your toddler immediately and – to take an example from this weekend's section – its insistence that your five-year-old daughter should be wearing "a bra-lette". ("It's the new undershirt," apparently.) When readers leave outraged comments beneath fashion articles on the Guardian website, it takes enormous self-restraint not to reply with: "I'm sorry, but have you ever looked at the New York Times style section? Do so, then return here, kissing the Guardian's hem in gratitude."
The article advocating the return of the monocle is so typical of a New York Times style section that it is hard not to think it was written either by an algorithm or as an Onion parody.
The monocle, the article insists, is being spotted in "the trendy enclaves of Berlin cafes and Manhattan restaurants", as well as "parts of south Dublin" (no, it isn't). It is favoured by a "hipster subspecies" called "the new gents" (Lord, rain hail and brimstone on us now – your work has been in vain) and one British seller has seen his sales "double over the past five years" (from one to two). One reason for its popularity, the article muses, is that many men "can't bear to sully their noses with those banners of middle age, reading glasses", yet find that "no amount of squinting with the naked eye enables them to decide if an iPhone emoticon is a nurse or the grinning devil" (truly, ageing is a cruel process). Oh, and some rapper you've never heard of wears a monocle, so.
Monocles aren't happening. But ridiculous trend pieces definitely are happening. In fact, I'd call them one of the most successful trends of all time. So hats off, New York Times style section, for really nailing this trend. Now take care of yourself, I think your monocle is drooping.Hadley Freeman