Without media literacy, is there hope for the media?

Much has been said in recent weeks about how the news media will need to transform itself if it is to keep up with continued deception from a President Trump, and with the proliferation of so-called fake news.

I think it's true that journalists have an almost impossible-to-navigate obstacle course in front of them for the years ahead. Covering hard news, calling out lies and omissions while maintaining their access, not becoming the story, not becoming desensitized, and just generally being on top of the actions of an administration unconstrained by any reasonable standards of integrity or transparency will be all-consuming.

But perhaps the harder task falls to an American public whose media literacy has apparently wasted away under the relentless influence of social media, clickbait journalism, passive entertainment, substandard education, and general civic apathy. It may not matter how well-sourced, researched and fact-checked a news article might be if the average reader doesn't know how to distinguish it from a speculative, misleading or just plain fabricated piece published by someone trying to get rich quick or advance an agenda. It probably doesn't matter how much time and money a media organization invests in being seen as credible if there is no widely accepted and respected standard for credibility.

If the public continues to give our clicks, attention and dollars to the most salacious and distracting stories over ones that cover the complex substance of politics and governance, there may be little hope for a strong fourth estate.

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Should we watch beheading videos?

On The Media had an interesting segment in Friday's show discussing whether or not it's helpful or important to watch propaganda videos released by terrorist organizations. Here's the audio, or you can download the MP3:

The discussion touches on some thought-provoking questions, including what good is served by viewing the videos, and whether or not media organization should display or outright censor these videos in the first place.

Related, DecodeDC has an interesting episode on whether or not the U.S. has a responsibility to act against ISIS:

Uncomfortable

Most every day I try to read something that makes me uncomfortable. Something that challenges my worldview, reminds me of my privilege, prompts me to think about unmet wants and needs of others in the world, or that just helps me step outside of my everyday understanding of how things work.

A few sources I turn to when I want to be uncomfortable include:

Sometimes my discomfort turns to anger or sadness, sometimes it turns into ideas, sometimes it even results in action. Most often it's helpful to me, sometimes it's not. But being uncomfortable now and then feels important.

Toward less discrimination in Indiana

Supreme Court StepsI wish that we lived in a world where the legitimacy of a personal relationship commitment wasn't connected to whether or not a given government or institution was willing to recognize it as such. I wish that the sanctity and significance of marriage or other forms of commitment were derived solely from the care, intention and hard work that its participants (perhaps including their families, friends and surrounding community) invested to make and maintain those vows.

But that is not the world we live in, at least not anymore, or yet. For now, we ask and allow our state and federal governments, religious institutions and cultural leaders to tell us what kinds of personal relationship commitments are legitimate and what kinds are not.

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Elements of an effective editorial

Lighthouse stairsIn October I concluded my time as a member of the Palladium-Item's community editorial advisory board, which I joined about two years ago.  I enjoyed the experience and while (as expected) I didn't always agree with the views published by the paper, I felt like I was able to bring a perspective and approach that helped shape the overall conversation.  There have been few other places in my day-to-day life since college where people regularly gather in a room to vehemently but respectfully talk (okay, and sometimes shout) in depth and in person about current events and important issues facing the city.

I was already a fairly close reader of the viewpoints page in the Pal-Item and other publications, but being on the editorial board inspired and required even closer attention to what topics local writers were submitting letters and columns about, and how they went about presenting their views.  As a result, I've put together a list of elements that I found to be present in the most effective and engaging editorials I've read:

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Hello, Bitcoin

Bitcoin, bitcoin coin, physical bitcoin, bitcoin photoWhen I first read about Bitcoin, the open source peer-to-peer digital currency, I thought it was just another in a long line of attempts to create an online alternative to the dollar that would probably not see wide adoption.

Then I watched "End of the Road: How Money Became Worthless," and started to understand more about fiat currency and the dangers that come with depending on it.  After a friend explained a little more about how Bitcoin works and how it was designed to transcend many of our current challenges with fiat money, I went back and took another look.

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RP&L misses opportunity to engage on energy policy

EnergyIn a guest column in today's Palladium-Item, Richmond Power and Light missed an opportunity to engage in a meaningful discussion about the future of energy and power generation in our region.   Instead, General Manager James French took the unfortunate approach of appealing to ratepayer fears about increased energy costs or drastic lifestyle changes, and the politicization of U.S. energy policy.

If President Obama’s plan is enacted, every flick of a light switch, every running of an air conditioner and every spin of your dryer will cost you more and at the expense of manufacturing jobs in the United States.  Consumers will be faced with either paying more for their bill or doing without several of their everyday conveniences.

Scientific, economic and environmental data all point clearly to the ways in which coal-based power generation is not sustainable, and perhaps more importantly, the public health and environmental risks that it increasingly poses.  As the Obama administration and many other public and private organizations try to work toward policies and practices that are sustainable and practical, it's important to make sure we're talking about the real facts and options in front of us, and to make sure the public is educated about those along the way.

Continue reading RP&L misses opportunity to engage on energy policy