journalism

Facebook’s Fake News Fighters Punish Italian Satirical Website

A popular satire website in Italy found out what happens when Facebook loses its sense of humor: they see fake news everywhere.
 
Publishing under the slogan “The filth that makes the news”, Lercio is a fabled multi-award-winning website of satirical news in Italy. 
 
In its early days, some of Lercio’s stories were taken as truth and shared by the mainstream press. However, soon the name Lercio (Italian for “dirt”) appearing alongside as the source of the news became a renowned synonym of virulent satire, to the point that nowadays the expression “Is this Lercio?” has become common use amongst Italians whenever they read or view any scarcely credible news in the mainstream media.
 
But what happens when satire lampooning people or institutions fails to be perceived as such, even by the social media and ends up being treated as misleading “fake news”? More importantly, how exactly do social media draw a distinction between pungent satire and mere trolling?

Marcela Turati: Expose the Hidden Interests of Big Media Companies

Interview with award-winning investigative journalist Marcela Turati, Marcela Turati is an investigative journalist who specializes in covering the impact of Mexican drug war on society.
 
Marcela Turati also has experience in human rights activism, and she reports on poverty and marginalized groups. She has been vocal against the murders and exile of journalists in Mexico. Ms Turati works for Proceso, a leading news weekly in Mexico. She co-founded Periodistas de a Pie (Journalists on Foot), an outfit dedicated to training journalists to improve the quality of their journalism and to defend freedom of expression.
 

How Italy Wants to Slam Fake News: Use Fines and Prison

Italian lawmakers have reacted to the spread of fake news and misinformation with an authoritarian law. Far from solving the problem, though, it in fact creates even more.
 
A new strain of meningitis brought in by African immigrants ravages the country. Members of parliament pass a law setting up a “crisis fund” for their survival if they can’t find a job after completing their mandate. The icing on the cake: the Prime Minister urges Italians to “stop whining and start making sacrifices”.
 

Tamas Bodoky: Readers Pay for Our Investigative Journalism

Interview with Hungarian-born Tamas Bodoky, a Budapest-based investigative journalist and editor leading Atlatszo.hu. Co-founded back in 2011 by Mr Bodoky, Atlatszo is a watchdog NGO and investigative journalism center whose mission is to promote transparency and freedom of information in Hungary.
 
Besides investigative reports, Atlatszo (which means “transparent” in Hungarian) has built a reputation for being open to whistleblowers and for regularly filing freedom of information requests. If those requests are refused, it takes public authorities to court.
 
Atlatszo.hu operates a Tor-based anonymous whistleblowing platform (Magyarleaks) and a freedom of information request generator to be used by the general public (Kimittud). Through the Kimittud, over 5,000 freedom of information requests were filed in the past three years in Hungary. Atlatszo.hu also provides a blogging platform for other NGOs and independent media. Atlatszo.hu has received a spate of prestigious prizes in the past five years.
 
Mr Bodoky has been a journalist for two decades now, his previous stints including work at Index.hu and Magyar Narancs weekly. He was awarded a sheaf of prizes for journalistic excellence in his career.
 

Know the Power, Know the Media

Media and journalism are changing fast and so should the media research agenda.
 
Analyzing the role of social media in the recent elections in America, Farhad Manjoo wrote in the New York Times on 16 November 2016 that widespread misinformation online was a “primary factor in the race’s outcome.”
 
I would add that some mainstream media have equally (if not more so) contributed to that outcome. Worse, some of them wholeheartedly embraced that role.
 
Audiences drawn by coverage of Donald Trump have just been good for the business of television. Mr Trump drove ratings up and with them ad sales. The head of CBS TV station, Les Moonves boasted last February that all that coverage of Mr Trump “may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.” On top of corporate dollars, CBS and other major TV channels pulled in hefty revenues from political advertising. The cost of the 2016 U.S. elections was expected to reach an unprecedented US$11.4bn in political advertising and media buying, a significant jump from the US$7bn in the 2012 elections, according to data from the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) released earlier this year.

EU Helps Romanian Intelligence Agency to Officially Become Big Brother

Thanks to a generous EU grant, Romania’s controversial intelligence agency is mingling stocks of databases from the country’s public institutions to monitor people. That could hurt many, but in particular those critical to the authorities and their friends.
 
Imagine this: you go online in your office and with a mere click you find out that some journalists that you don't like have not paid their tax on income they have generated as freelancers. Next minute you can informally alert the tax office; or, worse, blackmail these journalists and ask them to kill a story on a sensitive topic that can affect you and your friends up in the state administration or elsewhere.
 
That could happen in Romania in no more than a couple of years as the Romanian Information Service (SRI), the nation’s intelligence agency, is building a system that will allow them to hoard data from all key state authorities and public institutions in the country.
 
Ironically, all this is being funded with European Union (EU) money. The SRI is using a hefty €31.5m (US$ 35.2m) from the EU to run this project, called SII Analytics. By 2018, the system should be ready to fly.

Catalin Tolontan: How a Romanian Sports Reporter Turned Into a Bold and Audacious Muckraker

For Romanian-born Catalin Tolontan, the principle that has guided his journalistic work for the past 15 years has been to not  fear those about whom he is writing.
 
Nonetheless, when carrying out investigations, he doesn’t believe in individual courage, but rather in team tenacity. Mr Tolontan is one of the best-known sports journalists in Romania. He heads the Gazeta Sporturilor daily, and his investigations are published in the newspaper’s print and online editions as well as on his blog Tolo.ro. They have so far had a major impact in Romania, attracting the ire of both politicians and authorities.
 
One of Mr Tolontan’s latest investigations was a story about how hospitals illegally dilute disinfectants in Romania that he began to work on in spring 2016. The investigation led to the resignation of the country’s health minister. Known as the Hexi Pharma file, the case prompted the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) as well as the General Prosecutor’s Office to launch two lawsuits.
 

Subtly Silenced by the Hungarian Government

The editor in chief of Budapest Business Journal is leaving the newspaper. Here, he explains why.
 
Along with passing a package of restrictive media laws and seeking to influence ownership of media outlets, Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party is also using bullying tactics and intimidation in its broad campaign to silence criticism of the government. As a recent victim of this subtle strategy, I have to admit that it seems to be working.
 
After being told to stop writing about politics in the editorial column, I resigned as editor in chief of the Budapest Business Journal. Fidesz can now expect criticism of its government to drop by about 1,200 words a month.
 

Sky News Report on Illegal Arms Trafficking in Romania: A Massive Journalistic Blunder?

Newly released information from the investigation in the case of Sky News report on illegal arms trafficking in Romania points to a massive journalistic flub. The “arms dealers” in the Sky News report were a TV employee and two hunters.
 
The Romanian Directorate for Organized Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT) made the first arrest in the case of illegal arms trafficking in Romania exposed by Britain’s TV news channel Sky News. He is Attila Szaba Pantics, one of the people who appeared in the Sky News’ video as a gun dealer. He is accused of “spreading false information.”
 
The other two Romanians who appeared in the Sky News report, Aurelian Mihai Szanto and Levente Pantics, are also under investigation. DIICOT’s officials also want to extend their accusations to the British journalists from Sky News who produced the report, according to the Romanian news agency Agerpres.
 

Sky News Investigative Report Turns out to Be Bogus

In a report aired last Sunday, British broadcaster Sky News claimed that "gun dealers in Romania are willing to sell illegal weapons to anyone, including terrorists." It turns out that the "gun dealers" who appeared on camera are a group of ordinary Romanians who were paid by journalists to pretend they were weapon sellers.
 
A recent investigation in Romania carried out by British journalists with the Sky News TV channel was deemed as fake by local authorities, according to the Romanian Directorate for Organized Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT).
 
Following searches in the counties Bistrita Nasaud and Targu Mures, the Romanian antiterrorism inspectors found that the Sky’s report into gun dealers who illegally sell weapons in Romania was a setup devised by the Sky News journalists. The so-called gun dealers were paid to pretend on camera that they were selling guns, according to Euractiv.ro.
 

Analytics in the Newsroom: Just How Powerful Can They Become?

The use of data and analytics to track audience behavior is becoming increasingly more central in newsrooms around the world. A data-informed approach, once associated with brands like BuzzFeed or Gawker, is now making inroads in organizations like the Guardian, Die Welt or the BBC. But significant gaps remain in how different newsrooms use analytics for editorial purposes. 
 
A new study by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism analyzes how a range of different newsrooms across Europe and North America are developing their use of analytics – systematic analysis of quantitative data on audience behavior – as part of the battle for attention. 
 
The first and most evident sign of the rise of analytics in newsrooms around the world is the spread of tools to track audiences. Many newsrooms employ some sort of off-the-shelf tools and gather real-time traffic insights, which they often use in an ad-hoc manner to help increase day-to-day traffic and reach.
 
In many cases though, this generic approach – focused on short-term optimization goals - pretty much summarizes the organization’s analytics strategy.