Tag Archives: Twitter

If all our news were truthful, questions would be illegal…wouldn’t they?

9 Apr

I have started an argument with an online news editor.

I could have done a thousand other things but the voice inside my head said: “Go for it! Speak up NOW!”

This is the same voice that once advised me to accuse a policeman of lying on oath while I was standing in the dock and had already managed to annoy the judge.

This voice also advised me to confront two street robbers who held very long knives and were in the process of throwing a mini cab driver onto a railway line.

This voice gets me into trouble but it also saves my soul. It allows me to confront and to question when the easy way out is to ignore or withdraw.

The online news editor – we shall call him by his acronym ‘ONE’ , is a reasonable, educated and good – natured soul. I know this for a fact because of ONE’s replies so far.

ONE has enough to do already without needing to waste time engaged in spurious debates with strangers. ONE’s replies to my criticism have been in the form of questions. ONE moves the debate between us onward with intelligence and good humour and I try to respond in the same way.

I hope I succeed because if I do not, I know that ONE will spot the crack in my armour and a spear will dispatch me in an instant. I am certain that I would do the same if I get the chance.

Now, I am going to reveal what I am arguing with ONE about. Perhaps, you will suddenly see me in a different way.

We are arguing over the use of the question mark.

*?*

For a  journalist, the question mark is sacred. It drives their world, their identity and their reason for turning up for work each day. They ask questions.

For a reader, the question mark is an outrage. A reader seeks answers. We only read because we already have a question mark in our head. We are trying to remove the damned thing.

ONE writes headlines with a question mark at the end.

I don’t like this. I tell ONE that it is not the job of a journalist. Journalists should not write headlines that end in a question mark.

ONE replies to me:

“Why??????”

I instantly adore ONE’s answer and I want to frame it. Behind a sheet of slate.

“Because I believe that the essence of reportage is to provide answers, not debate uncertainty”

ONE replies to me:

“Agreed, reports should probably explain rather than pose questions, but surely Twitter is not reportage?????????”

I chew over my relationship with Twitter before suggesting to him:

“It evolves as we use it, changing from look-at-me platform to echo-platform to breaking-newsroom. Hot news at its best, period.”

ONE has better things to do and goes off and does them.

I use the time to write this post on my WordPress blog and clarify my battle plans. Have I won my point? I doubt it.

ONE has asked the Big Question.

Is Twitter reportage?

The word reportage is defined as the means of reporting news.

ONE is making an important point here.

ONE is suggesting that Twitter does not itself report news but is instead, something other. Twitter is a ‘platform’, a soap-box on which we can all stand and shout.

ONE is suggesting that Twitter is the means by which we link to news. It is not the news report itself.

ONE is pointing out that by capturing our attention with a question mark, we will follow the link to the report and read the story. ONE is selling the story on Twitter and not reporting it.

Now, this is a wonderful day for me and ONE to be slugging this argument out. Why? Because yesterday morning, Margaret Thatcher died of a stroke. Thatcher was once a famous and powerful British Prime Minister.

Margaret Thatcher’s death is just a simple and natural occurrence. We get old and we die. It happens to us all.

But Thatcher’s death has unleashed a huge news battle across the internet and the lives of those in Britain. Some welcome her death and others mourn it.

Those that welcome her death do so because the secrets that she hid from the world when she was a powerful leader are now one step closer to being released for the press to report. Many of these secret documents can only be released after her death.

Those that mourn her death are the ones who broadly benefit from those secrets staying locked away.

The most powerful interests are held by the press who wish to maintain her image as a force for good.

The weakest footing is held by those who cannot argue their case until all the documents she hid away are revealed to the world and become common knowledge for the first time.

You see, Thatcher used her power to suppress facts from being reported that might harm her power to rule or cause unrest among the already angry sections of  Britain’s population.

Those among us who personally witnessed the gross censorship and distortion of news under her rule are powerless to speak out because our evidence is locked away in dusty vaults.

We purse our lips as her powerful friends weep Hollywood tears at her passing so that they gain a better seat at her funeral wake.

We wait until we can question what actually went on in secret and get an answer. We cannot do this yet because the facts are still withheld from the journalists who will reveal them. Some files are locked away for seventy years.

One day they will come out. One day, the news will be more truthful than it is today.

ONE is right.

Twitter is just a railway station where trains carrying truth arrive and depart. We get on them if we choose and we are transported to where we want to be. ONE is just a guard with a flag, shouting the destinations and helping people get on board. You want to go here? Get on this carriage. You want to go there? Next train.

But Twitter has one unique element.

It is not owned by the wealthy and influential news groups who have an interest in pitching a certain version of the truth.

Twitter is the place where truth, lies and fantasy are all available and we are allowed to choose. Where the process of news starts and where it is advertised once it is ready for us to read it.

In between us and our news is a man or a woman who has to ask questions on our behalf.

And ONE has to occasionally ask us questions to make sure that we are listening.

And a truth unspoken is a lie that sleeps.

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Lydia Callis, Interpreter, is deleted. ‘Killing the messenger’, Bloomberg Style…

30 Oct

Last night, as New York state (and also half the world) watched TV news for information on Pretty Damn Big Storm Sandy, a star was born.

As New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg  droned relentlessly onward like a Caterpillar D8 bulldozer (shown below), Lydia Callis translated the true meaning of his words for those listeners who still believed in the power of life and who still had hearts that beat.

By 02:00 hrs GMT, as the storm was thrashing Lower Manhattan, Lydia had a Twitter account that was trending like a rocket. She was gaining followers  in a way that meant only one thing: she had become an overnight sensation in the literal sense.

Her outstanding, intuitive and skilled visual interpretation of Bloomberg’s words was truly electrifying to watch.

It was made more so by the contrast between her vivacious delivery and his life-sucking, soul-crushingly unmemorable droning. 

Lydia spoke to the living and the hard of hearing.

Mike spoke to the telegraph poles and the concrete kerb stones.

By morning, Lydia was receiving the kind of internet media attention that spelled trouble. People loved her. People adored her. People wanted to see more of her rather than Bloomberg.

One just knew what would happen next…

In a simple feat of 1950’s Russian Communist Party subtlety, Lydia has been deleted. Airbrushed out of the history of New York’s worst night.

Camera footage of her at Bloomberg’s side on the night of the storm has been cropped so that she is no longer in view. You can just catch a glimpse of her elbow if you have sharp eyes. Yes, the footage looks slightly grainy now; it has been cropped and enlarged  to counter for the fact that it is zoomed in on Mike.

Her upbeat Twitter account comment which she made last night:   “I’m back…!” has gone.

So have all her other comments and posts.

So has her Twitter account.

All that remains is a hashtag page for ‘SignLanguageLady’ – her own original account address. It leads to nowhere. She is now nobody. She has become a ‘non-person’.

Some might argue that it does not befit a mayor’s interpreter to upstage a mayor.

Others might counter that it does not befit a mayor to make his atrociously poor communication worse by removing his interpreter.

Some might argue that she diverted attention from Bloomberg’s words.

Others might argue that this was an act of supreme charity and kindness since Mike has no talent for communication. Not a shred. Nada.

Lydia mentioned last night that, although she loves working with Mike, when Bloomberg tries to “habla” (speak Spanish) – she stops signing. 

Her comment has now been removed from the internet.

Bloomberg has as much in common with the Hispanic community as a hat stand does with a pork pie. This is not a thing that should be pointed out. If it is, then people might think that he is unelectable in the Hispanic community.

People might be right. 

Bloomberg does not speak for and does not speak with the people. He should not be a mayor.

Callis (or: Callas – the spelling that used to appear) spoke for and to the people and she should be.

Cyber-casing: Did you just Geo-tag your car keys to a criminal?

10 Jul

She ‘likes’ Audi on Facebook. She uploaded the name of the cafe she is currently in to Twitter. The keys are in her bag, by her feet. Her phone is visible on Bluetooth.

Criminals are increasingly focusing their efforts upon those people who upload valuable data to social networking sites.

“Cybercasing”  is the term used to describe the process by which a criminal can anonymously monitor a potential victim by watching as they sequentially upload valuable data about their possessions and their current geographical location.

A Simple Example:

Facebook Status Update: “A picture of me and my new Audi at the dealer franchise in Dallas!”

then, two days later…

Twitter Update: ” In Rocky’s Bar, Dallas with Kim. Come and join us!” – sent via iPhone App

The criminal already knows what you look like (you posted your beautiful face on Facebook, didn’t you?) and you told them what you drive. They now know your precise location (you just uploaded a helpful map to Twitter using your iPhone, didn’t you?) and that you are relaxing in a cafe bar.

Just as the Darwin Awards were invented in the 1990’s to honor those who killed themselves through their own stupidity, so time may be running out for those who openly advertise their valuable possessions and their geographical whereabouts to 900 million complete strangers.

Insurance companies already refuse to pay out on theft claims from people who have left their keys in their car’s ignition…only to find that some absolute cad has slipped behind the wheel and selected “Drive” while they were chatting to the postman or getting something from the house.

It makes sense to assume that it will not be long before the insurance industry takes a dim view of those who sequentially reveal information to strangers about their identity, location, their valuables and where to find the keys.

Most police forces, just like professional criminals, make full use of un- encrypted cell phone messages and social networking sites to hunt down their prey. In the case of the Police, they are usually trying to intercept a particular person but criminals are interested in knowing where someone is  for the opposite reason: if the person is at the beach, then they aren’t at home. If they drove into town then their keys are certainly with them. If they are out celebrating with friends then they may not be on their guard.

Professional athletes have known for some years that their houses are most likely to suffer a break-in while they are away competing or playing their sport. Everybody who follows sport knows where they are going to be at a certain time on a certain day.

But it seems to be a lesson not yet learned by the average person that Social Media reveals their own movements and plans just as clearly if they openly publicize their social interests, hobbies, friend network and current location.

Love motorbikes? Of course you do. Particularly Harleys. You have a profile of yourself on the Harley-Lovers Site. You post on the forum. You uploaded a picture of your pride and joy. It is one of the rare ones, very desirable. There’s you, in the picture, next to it. You even got three “likes” for the picture. Fantastic bike. Way to go!

Then, you  bought some rare enamel Harley badges on e-Bay. Real bargain! The guy posted them to you sameday. Top seller. Great guy.

That’s right.

You just gave your full address to a complete stranger who now knows exactly where you live.

What’s that you say on Facebook? You and your partner have got tickets to see Radiohead play and you’re in ecstacy ‘cos its her turn to drive?

Excellent.

You will be away from home for at least six hours.

The wireless alarm box will act dumb once I climb my ladder, unscrew the cover and remove the back-up battery. A suction-pad glass cutter on the back door will stop the neighbors hearing anything. Your fuse box is exactly where I expect it to be.

The Harley is in the garage and the keys will be in the drawer in the kitchen.  You have a dog? Nope. You used to.

You can keep the ladder. It wasn’t mine, anyway.

It is becoming ever more crucial that people understand that it is not cool to upload information to websites that can identify and link you like the cross-hairs in a sniper’s gun.

If you value your folk and your possessions, keep it private. Think carefully about whether it is a good idea to keep the same  username across different websites.

Be sociable but always be smart.

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