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Accountability | The media is not the church's enemy – National Catholic Reporter

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As the U.S. bishops gathered last month for their first-ever virtual meeting, there was one thing that wasn’t all that different: Several prelates pulled out the tired trope of blaming the media for all that’s wrong with the church and the world.

During the church leaders’ brief, public discussion about the McCarrick report — concerning the former cardinal’s rise in the hierarchy despite a history of sexual assault — there was plenty of talk about sins (McCarrick’s) and fasting and prayer as reparations (the bishops’).

But Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, got right to what he saw as the crux of the matter with a defense of the person upon whom the report places most of the blame: Pope John Paul II.

“What I think is unfortunate, though, is the media reports that have come out that have tried to paint St. John Paul II as somehow culpable for all this,” Paprocki said.

The Vatican report details how the late pope and now saint, despite warnings from advisers on both sides of the Atlantic, approved then-Archbishop Theodore McCarrick’s move to Washington D.C., and then later made him a cardinal.

But Paprocki cited footnotes in the report that, in his mind, absolved his hero of having turned a blind eye to the fact that McCarrick shared a bed with seminarians — noting that his evidence was “contrary to the allegations in the media.”

Paprocki suggested that the media “understandably perhaps” missed those footnotes because they read only the executive summary, rather than the full 400-plus-page report.

For the record: Although Vatican correspondent Joshua McElwee’s initial reporting for NCR drew only on the executive summary, provided to media an hour before the report’s wider release, McElwee’s second-day story, which detailed John Paul II’s complicity, was based on careful reading of the entire report.

Bishop Michael Pfeifer, emeritus of San Angelo, Texas, also expressed concern that “our lay people … pick up more from the secular media than from the church.” He urged fellow bishops to issue a statement from the meeting, “humbly admitting mistakes were made,” but the conference’s president, Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez, did not take him up on that idea.

Also taking a swipe at the media was the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, who included the “press” as among those contributing to a “genuine crisis of authority” in his address to the conference.

“There is a lack of authority on the part of those who pretend to exercise power; a lack of trust and belief in those who are supposed to have authority, namely those in leadership; and manipulation by the press, which, at times, cares little for the truth but which erodes the confidence and trust of the people in the authority of the press,” Pierre said. “No one seems to be offering real values or solutions to bring about healing. These factors have created the crisis in both society and the church.”

It’s true that there are so-called media outlets masquerading as legitimate news organizations in the church (I’m talking to you, LifeSiteNews), but these general indictments of “the media” by bishops sadly echo a certain soon-to-be-ex-president, who specialized in yelling “Fake news!” whenever the news was bad.

The bishops, collectively at least, also have a history of blaming the media, most notably when journalists uncovered sexual abuse of children and the related coverup by bishops. At the time, the prelates hurled accusations of anti-Catholicism at reporters who were actually doing the church a favor by exposing its weaknesses.

Today, most bishops know to avoid such blatant deflection, and they publicly call for “accountability” and “transparency.” Some bishops at the November virtual meeting called for more sunshine, rather than less.

Bishop William Wack of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida, noted that he is “amazed at the autonomy we have … that we are really beholden to no one.”

While Wack called for fraternal correction among brother bishops, the media, too, can play a role in holding leadership accountable and providing transparency. It’s why the media is historically referred to as the “fourth estate” for its role in keeping government accountable. Catholic media, especially independent sources like NCR, have long played a similar role in keeping the church accountable.

For example, it was NCR and other secular media that first alerted everyday church-goers to sexual predators in the priesthood — when the leadership was more interested in quashing that information. Media stories have uncovered the coverup of sexual abuse, shed light on financial improprieties and exposed hidden money in church organizations.

But too often church leaders think the media — perhaps especially Catholic media — should be acting as public relations promoters for the church. Several bishops at the November meeting expressed a desire to “make sure people know about” the positive moves by church leadership to address sex abuse, as Newark, New Jersey, Cardinal Joseph Tobin put it. Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich also hoped that “word will get out there that we are on the side of the victims.”

Yes, media outlets need to tell the whole truth, the good news as well as the bad. But as professional journalists, we also have to respect news values in our coverage, and often that involves some sort of conflict. As I used to tell my journalism students that everyone getting along is nice, but it’s not news.

In his comments calling for transparency, Bishop Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City, Missouri, may have inadvertently promoted the work of journalists.

“We as a church need to use all the resources that are available to us, and in many instances that will be found in lay people, who are skilled and qualified in investigating these kinds of accusations and helping us evaluate the facts,” he said.

Exactly. The media are not the enemy. We are professionals, trying to do our jobs, in the service of the truth.

[Heidi Schlumpf is NCR executive editor. Her email address is hschlumpf@ncronline.org. Follow her on Twitter: @HeidiSchlumpf.]

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GUEST OPINION: Is social media complicit in the mob attack on the American capital? – The Guardian

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Kent Bruyneel
Guest opinion


My friend Dave said to me recently that whatever anyone thought of social media, we human beings at this point in our evolution were not ready for these tools. Hard to argue, even for someone who makes part of his living teaching that very tool. Using social media as our primary source for both news and truth, we have arrived at a chaotic time in public discourse like people swept up in a mob who don’t quite know what we are doing. Or, why we are doing it. Or, what will become of all that private and personal information shared and shouted. We only know, as mob members, that everyone else is doing it; parts of it seem like entertainment; and we had better do it lest we miss out on something – that most modern of motivations.

I tell students and clients that one of the tenets of modern communications, especially social media, is that if you do not define your online voice, someone else will do it for you. Sure, they probably will anyway (see: Yelp). But, I remind them, you have to enter the arena to at least hear what is being said. I encourage its use broadly and pervasively, so even though I am not an active social media poster, I am connected to the ridiculous and deadly spectacle that happened in the American capital this past week in myriad ways. In a sense all of those in the social network are: the lurkers and the over-sharers. Not culpable, or guilty or anything, but not quite innocent either: we are responsible for how widely, vigorously and seriously we read. And, of course, we are responsible for what signs we hold over our head; and what weapons we bear in our arms. But the basic underlying algorithm that controls the news we unprepared-humans now are fed has made social media so dangerous that its standard bearer is being linked in legitimate publications to the machine that will destroy mankind.

Put simply, an algorithm is a specific set of instructions to solve a problem. Broadly speaking, social media algorithms find out what you like and then feed you more of it. This process is always been part of the internet experience: more cute than deep (endless cat videos), more seedy than dangerous (endless pornography), more annoying than threatening (endless spam). What has fundamentally changed is that now, mostly through Twitter and Facebook, we are fed not just larks or stimuli, we are fed news and truth.

Different truth, and different news according to what we already believe. News and truth, actually, that have specifically designed and delivered for us. News and truth that have been curated to please us and turn off our critical faculties. The Atlantic recently published an article called “Facebook is a Doomsday Device” that is both chilling and worth the read. This is what Dave meant. We are not prepared for these tools.

The eleventh hour banning of President Trump’s Twitter account and the Big Tech move that comes against Parler, Twitter’s conservative wannabee doppelganger, is too late in the process, poorly and cynically timed; but also necessary. Though it may seem futile, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg must chase down the horses that have so violently erupted from their barns. Even if they do, they will almost certainly face more regulatory and legislative oversight going forward from all nations. Good.

In the United States, the protections social media companies have been granted under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act will be further scrutinized. The best way to quickly explain Section 230 is that it allows social media companies to be platforms, not publishers: a publisher is responsible for the veracity of whatever it publishes, a platform is not responsible for whomever stands on it and shouts. It appears that the companies themselves have now realized that line can no longer be so easily delineated in the still nascent empires of influence.

Though it is possible to understand the banning of the MAGA crowd as the violation of the rules of a platform, it can be just as easily read as the editorial decisions of a publisher. The president’s quixotic and ill-informed attack on Section 230 notwithstanding, I expect the investigation, regulation and scrutiny to only grow on the companies that control the information age; and the most prominent web companies do too based on their recent actions. Good.

We know now and have always known that disinformation has consequences. It seems unavoidable to conclude that absent the ability of social media companies to curate and choose news and truth for people based on scraped personal information and preferences; and those companies’ concurrent ability to group those people together with relative ease, these acts of mob terrorism would have been far harder to organize. This is not to excuse or explain away the brutality and violence, this is to understand how it all got together in one place. Understanding the later, does not lessen the contempt, disgust or scorn for the former.

I also acknowledge that Facebook can help facilitate many wonderful things too and connect people in a certain way. But, at the moment, that feels akin to people fighting the opioid epidemic by acknowledging that heroin makes you high … Sure, it does that too. That’s how this all got started.

I come bearing no solutions other than this: Read more. I would doubt anyone who said they know exactly what social media will look like, or how it will impact us, in10 years, or even five. I’ll just close by paraphrasing George Orwell, who was prescient about the danger of a degraded public discourse: Those who do not read well cannot think well, and those who do not think well will have their thinking done for them.

Kent Bruyneel teaches modern business communications and social media and applied digital communications at the University of Prince Edward Island and is the editor-in-chief of Forget Magazine. With his wife, Dr. Shannon Bruyneel, he runs a strategic consulting firm, The Eastsizing Company, that focuses on socially actionable research.

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GUEST OPINION: Is social media complicit in the mob attack on the American capital? – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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Kent Bruyneel
Guest opinion


My friend Dave said to me recently that whatever anyone thought of social media, we human beings at this point in our evolution were not ready for these tools. Hard to argue, even for someone who makes part of his living teaching that very tool. Using social media as our primary source for both news and truth, we have arrived at a chaotic time in public discourse like people swept up in a mob who don’t quite know what we are doing. Or, why we are doing it. Or, what will become of all that private and personal information shared and shouted. We only know, as mob members, that everyone else is doing it; parts of it seem like entertainment; and we had better do it lest we miss out on something – that most modern of motivations.

I tell students and clients that one of the tenets of modern communications, especially social media, is that if you do not define your online voice, someone else will do it for you. Sure, they probably will anyway (see: Yelp). But, I remind them, you have to enter the arena to at least hear what is being said. I encourage its use broadly and pervasively, so even though I am not an active social media poster, I am connected to the ridiculous and deadly spectacle that happened in the American capital this past week in myriad ways. In a sense all of those in the social network are: the lurkers and the over-sharers. Not culpable, or guilty or anything, but not quite innocent either: we are responsible for how widely, vigorously and seriously we read. And, of course, we are responsible for what signs we hold over our head; and what weapons we bear in our arms. But the basic underlying algorithm that controls the news we unprepared-humans now are fed has made social media so dangerous that its standard bearer is being linked in legitimate publications to the machine that will destroy mankind.

Put simply, an algorithm is a specific set of instructions to solve a problem. Broadly speaking, social media algorithms find out what you like and then feed you more of it. This process is always been part of the internet experience: more cute than deep (endless cat videos), more seedy than dangerous (endless pornography), more annoying than threatening (endless spam). What has fundamentally changed is that now, mostly through Twitter and Facebook, we are fed not just larks or stimuli, we are fed news and truth.

Different truth, and different news according to what we already believe. News and truth, actually, that have specifically designed and delivered for us. News and truth that have been curated to please us and turn off our critical faculties. The Atlantic recently published an article called “Facebook is a Doomsday Device” that is both chilling and worth the read. This is what Dave meant. We are not prepared for these tools.

The eleventh hour banning of President Trump’s Twitter account and the Big Tech move that comes against Parler, Twitter’s conservative wannabee doppelganger, is too late in the process, poorly and cynically timed; but also necessary. Though it may seem futile, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg must chase down the horses that have so violently erupted from their barns. Even if they do, they will almost certainly face more regulatory and legislative oversight going forward from all nations. Good.

In the United States, the protections social media companies have been granted under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act will be further scrutinized. The best way to quickly explain Section 230 is that it allows social media companies to be platforms, not publishers: a publisher is responsible for the veracity of whatever it publishes, a platform is not responsible for whomever stands on it and shouts. It appears that the companies themselves have now realized that line can no longer be so easily delineated in the still nascent empires of influence.

Though it is possible to understand the banning of the MAGA crowd as the violation of the rules of a platform, it can be just as easily read as the editorial decisions of a publisher. The president’s quixotic and ill-informed attack on Section 230 notwithstanding, I expect the investigation, regulation and scrutiny to only grow on the companies that control the information age; and the most prominent web companies do too based on their recent actions. Good.

We know now and have always known that disinformation has consequences. It seems unavoidable to conclude that absent the ability of social media companies to curate and choose news and truth for people based on scraped personal information and preferences; and those companies’ concurrent ability to group those people together with relative ease, these acts of mob terrorism would have been far harder to organize. This is not to excuse or explain away the brutality and violence, this is to understand how it all got together in one place. Understanding the later, does not lessen the contempt, disgust or scorn for the former.

I also acknowledge that Facebook can help facilitate many wonderful things too and connect people in a certain way. But, at the moment, that feels akin to people fighting the opioid epidemic by acknowledging that heroin makes you high … Sure, it does that too. That’s how this all got started.

I come bearing no solutions other than this: Read more. I would doubt anyone who said they know exactly what social media will look like, or how it will impact us, in10 years, or even five. I’ll just close by paraphrasing George Orwell, who was prescient about the danger of a degraded public discourse: Those who do not read well cannot think well, and those who do not think well will have their thinking done for them.

Kent Bruyneel teaches modern business communications and social media and applied digital communications at the University of Prince Edward Island and is the editor-in-chief of Forget Magazine. With his wife, Dr. Shannon Bruyneel, he runs a strategic consulting firm, The Eastsizing Company, that focuses on socially actionable research.

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Firstlight Media Teams with Google Cloud to Deliver Next-Gen OTT – Canada NewsWire

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Unlocks Service Agility, Scalability, Extensibility Across Partner Ecosystems

TORONTO, Jan. 19, 2021 /CNW/ – Firstlight Media today announced that it has partnered with Google Cloud to support rapid deployment and expansion of OTT video streaming services.

Firstlight Media’s microservices-based architecture takes full advantage of Google Cloud capabilities, including:

  • Agility to launch services in weeks, rather than months;
  • Scalability for cost effective growth with customers’ businesses and support for complex use cases; and
  • Extensibility that futureproofs platforms with simplified integrations into best of breed technology solutions, as well as product features that drive innovation and deliver on customer acquisition, retention and revenue.

By combining Firstlight Media’s extensive background in solving complex issues for Tier 1 operators with the scale, reach and tools of Google Cloud, Firstlight Media now enables video providers to capitalize quickly and efficiently on new market opportunities in delivering AI/ML-powered personalization and monetization. Customers can leverage Firstlight’s OTT headend in San Diego and digital expertise in the media and entertainment industry to navigate the increasingly complex world of advertising and subscription direct-to-consumer business models with confidence.

“For the industry, our partnership with Google Cloud exponentially expands options for new services that can rapidly address viewer demand,” said Andre Christensen, CEO and co-founder of Firstlight Media. “Our customers can leverage three formidable resources—Firstlight Media’s cloud native platform, Google Cloud’s platform, and the technology of other Google Cloud partners—all to create opportunities that maximize the long-term value of each subscriber.”

“Increasingly, media and entertainment need to deliver digital-first experiences to consumers, in person and online,” said Kip Schauer, Global Head of Media and Entertainment Partnerships at Google Cloud. “We’re excited to partner with Firstlight Media to scale and extend their platform on Google Cloud, and help businesses deliver exciting, new digital experiences to consumers.”

About Firstlight Media
Firstlight Media is expediting OTT’s transformation to ultra-scalable, cloud-based platforms that use artificial intelligence to drive true engagement and monetization for Tier 1 operators. Founded by a team with deep OTT video expertise and a strong track record of building successful B2B businesses, Firstlight Media is poised to capture the next wave of growth in premium OTT entertainment services. The company is headquartered in Toronto and has additional locations in Los Angeles, San Diego and Chennai, India. For more information, visit firstlight.ai.

SOURCE Firstlight Media

For further information: Paul Schneider, PSPR, Inc. for Firstlight Media, [email protected], +1.215.817.4384

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