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COVID-19: Has traditional media shown the way again? – Gulf News



Image of UAE-based newspapers used for illustrative purposes
Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

The coronavirus pandemic has torn the veil off a long-obscured and frightening reality: Our economies are unconscionably fragile, propped up by low-wage jobs, and our health systems are tissue-thin.

As companies go bankrupt and workers are laid off by the millions, it seems likely that most major economic and cultural institutions will suffer the shock of transition, if not extinction.

There is no dearth of issues where the traditional media should be able to establish permanent superiority over its upstart rivals with a mix of intellectual rigour and compassion

These include the media, which has a key role to play in shaping how we think of and act upon this new world.

Clearly, many periodicals will not survive the loss of revenue from sales and advertising. For better and worse, the landscape of news and opinion looks to become far less diverse.

Small magazines, especially non-profit ones, are most vulnerable.

Old media matters

The social media “influencers” who broadcast conspiracy theories linking COVID-19 to 5G signal masts should long ago have been consigned to history’s wastebasket. It’s about time, too, that the culture of celebrity was fatally undermined.

And one can only hope that the credibility of partisan outlets such as Fox News, which aggressively downplayed news of the pandemic, lethally influencing US President Donald Trump, will be impaired, especially in the eyes of its elderly audience, which is most exposed to the virus.

Media in coronavirus

The institutions of the much-maligned “legacy media” actually have the best chance of surviving and even flourishing in the future. Rogue challengers to their authority arose in part because the traditional media failed to anticipate or diagnose correctly the financial crisis of 2008.

The claim that globalisation was lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and into a democratising middle class has underpinned much reporting and opinion since the 1990s.

Mechanically boosting globalisation and its beneficiaries, the traditional media was slower than its rivals to catch up with the political upshot of stagnant wages and extreme inequality — a global explosion of demagoguery.

Trump’s tirade against mainstream media 

Given the media’s general neglect of the “left-behinds,” it should not be surprising that so many of the latter came to believe in Trump’s charge, repeated by many other demagogues, that mainstream newspapers and television channels peddled only “fake news.”

Many media organs are now trying to be more alert to the needs of the hour. In a startling move, the Financial Times recently called for radical reforms, “reversing the prevailing policy direction of the last four decades.”

This would require that governments “accept a more active role in the economy,” seeing “public services as investments rather than liabilities” and making “labour markets less insecure.”

Exhorting “redistribution,” the FT demanded consideration of “policies until recently considered eccentric, such as basic income and wealth taxes.”

As even the most respectable Western periodicals hastily dump 40 years of free-market pieties, it is clear they were driven more by ideology than a sense of reality and possibility. As recently as November last year, the FT denounced the Labour Party’s relatively modest programme to bring Britain on par with other welfare European states, arguing that it “turns the clock back 40 years.”

Fortunately, the traditional media now has a chance to rebuild its reputation and even augment its essential role in democratic societies.

The experience and fear of death, and the mass destruction of livelihoods, calls for the utmost precision in information and analysis.

There is no dearth of issues where the traditional media should be able to establish permanent superiority over its upstart rivals with a mix of intellectual rigour and compassion.

Imbalances in coverage

There are imbalances in coverage to be addressed. The plight of many people most intensely affected by the crisis — teachers, nurses, cleaners and carers, not to mention the poor, the elderly and the disabled — has very rarely featured in mainstream accounts.

The BBC, for one, has rapidly re-emerged not only as a source of unbiased news and scientific opinion, but also as a champion of the poorly paid people on the frontlines of the struggle against the virus.

As the biggest crisis since the Second World War unfolds, the challenges before the traditional media will be manifold and steep.

Globalisation is swiftly receding into the past, its precarious gains likely to be lost. Billions of people could plunge back into the poverty from which they had only recently (and barely) emerged.

Social unrest, manifested last year in a global wildfire of street protests, is likely to intensify. Moreover, the state, whose urgent intervention in public and private life is being widely demanded and welcomed, could become oppressively overbearing.

It is no exaggeration to say that the fate of many democratic societies will depend on how well the news outlets that survive perform their duty.

— Bloomberg

Pankaj Mishra is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. His books include “Age of Anger: A History of the Present,” “From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia,” and “Temptations of the West: How to Be Modern in India, Pakistan, Tibet and Beyond.”

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Chad Brownlee apologizes over social media post depicting conspiracy theory –



Canadian country singer Chad Brownlee has apologized after posting a conspiracy theory image criticized as racist and antisemitic on his social media accounts.

The musician from British Columbia issued the original post on Tuesday and then deleted it, however some social media users captured a screen grab of it.

The manipulated image depicts Jewish-American billionaire philanthropist George Soros with a chess board and pieces made up of protesters and the COVID-19 molecule.

Soros has been the target of many right-wing conspiracy theories, including claims he’s funding anti-fascist activists in the protests against racism and police brutality in the United States.

Reacting to social media anger over the post, Brownlee wrote on his Twitter and Instagram accounts that he apologizes for sharing an image “that was wrong, inappropriate and could be perceived as racist.”

He added his “intention in posting the image was nothing of the sort,” although he acknowledges “how people could easily have seen it that way.”

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Tyler Babiy fosters connections and community through social media – Saskatoon StarPhoenix



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Depending on your outlook, connecting through social media can be as interactive or isolated as each user prefers.

For Tyler Babiy, that choice is easy. Interacting with local creators and other like-minded people is the focus of his business, Social Made Local.

It originally started out as a T-shirt brand — an offshoot of his other business, T Squared Social. Since then, it has also fostered a community of like-minded, local creatives looking to connect, collaborate and share their creativity.

“With this T-shirt company I could just try to instil a sense of social responsibility in terms of taking ownership of the things you create,” Babiy says.

“It’s really cool to offer (creators) a space to have a voice and be heard — but to also plant that seed of consciousness in people that the things that we do on social media are not private and they can deeply affect the people around us in ways we don’t even know … so it’s just planting that idea that you’re not just throwing things into the wind.”

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Facebook places state media labels on Russian, Chinese broadcasters – Reuters Canada



SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Facebook Inc will start labeling Russian, Chinese and other state-controlled media organizations, and later this summer will block any ads from such outlets that target U.S. users, it said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: A Facebook logo is displayed on a smartphone in this illustration taken January 6, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

The world’s biggest social network will apply the label to Russia’s Sputnik, Iran’s Press TV and China’s Xinhua News, according to a partial list Facebook provided. The company will apply the label to about 200 pages at the outset.

Facebook will not label any U.S.-based news organizations, as it determined that even U.S. government-run outlets have editorial independence, Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, said in an interview.

Facebook, which has acknowledged its failure to stop Russian use of its platforms to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, has since stepped up its defenses and imposed greater transparency requirements for pages and ads on its platforms.

The company announced plans last year to create a state media label, but is introducing the tool amid a deep crisis over its hands-off treatment of misleading and racially charged posts by U.S. President Donald Trump.

The new measure comes just months ahead of the November U.S. presidential election.

Under the measure, Facebook will not use the label for media outlets affiliated with individual political figures or parties, which Gleicher said could push “boundaries that are very, very slippery.”

“What we want to do here is start with the most critical case,” he said.

Facebook is not the first company to take such action.

YouTube, owned by Alphabet Inc’s Google, in 2018 started identifying video channels that predominantly carry news items and are funded by governments. But critics charge YouTube has failed to label some state news outlets, allowing them to earn ad revenue from videos with misinformation and propaganda.

In a blog post, Facebook said its label will appear on pages globally, as well as on News Feed posts within the United States.

Facebook also said it will ban U.S.-targeted ads from state-controlled entities “out of an abundance of caution” ahead of the November presidential election. Elsewhere, the ads will receive a label.

Reporting by Katie Paul; Editing by Leslie Adler

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