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Social media policies are failing journalists



Social media platforms present a conundrum for journalists.

On the one hand, journalists rely on social media for so many helpful aspects of their jobs. To name just a few: to connect with potential sources, to interact with audiences, to promote their work, and to find solidarity among fellow journalists.

On the other hand, platforms such as Twitter and Facebook present a dizzying array of problems, from the growing variety and intensity of online harassment — hostility, trolling, doxing, etc. — that especially targets women and journalists of color, to the constant threat that one wrong tweet might incite a mob or cost a journalist their job.

It’s important to ask: What are newsroom leaders doing to support and protect their journalists facing the increasing risks and challenges of social media?


new study in Digital Journalism examines this question. Its author, Jacob L. Nelson, conducted in-depth interviews with 37 U.S.-based reporters, editors, publishers, freelancers, and social media/audience engagement managers, covering current and former employees at a wide array of outlets (local and national, for-profit and nonprofit, legacy media and digital media). Interviews focused on journalists’ experiences with and thoughts about their newsroom’s social media policies. Women and journalists of color made up a large share of interviewees because such journalists are more likely to encounter online harassment.

So, what did the journalists interviewed say about the value of social media policies and their organizations’ support mechanisms? The research article’s title provides a hint: “Worse than the harassment itself.”

“I find that although journalists face both external and internal pressure to devote considerable time and effort to social media platforms — primarily Twitter — they encounter little in the way of guidance or support when it comes to navigating the dangers inherent within those platforms,” Nelson writes. “On the contrary, journalists feel newsroom social media policies tend to make matters worse, by offering difficult to follow guidelines focused primarily on maintaining an ‘objective’ perception of the organization among the public rather than on protecting journalists from the harassment that many will inevitably receive.”

Journalists interviewed for this study seemed to be “one step ahead of their newsroom managers,” argued Nelson (who, full disclosure, does collaborative research with Seth, though not on this project). The journalists realized, in a way their bosses didn’t, that “the very behavior that social media most encourages and rewards — being active and personal — is the same kind of behavior that brings journalists their biggest frustrations.”

That is, journalists understood that being authentic and acting like a “real” person on social media was more likely to bring more professional opportunities and improved interactions with the public. Sounds good, right? But, at the same time, such an approach to social media, journalists realized, also made them more vulnerable to recurring personal attacks from harassers, and it increased the odds that they would inadvertently say something that would get them accused of bias and thus punished by their managers for failing to abide by strict policies on neutrality.

The overall result is that journalists feel they are walking what Nelson has elsewhere called a “Twitter tightrope”: “They spend a great deal of time engaging with the public on social media platforms, while constantly wondering if and when that engagement will come at their professional peril.” So, what do journalists want? For their managers to do more to help them mitigate the challenges and risks endemic to this work. (Indeed, as other research has found recently, news organizations are doing little to protect their journalists from online harassment.)

The “fluidity” of the social media audience — its unpredictability, particularly when some posts “go viral” and spread widely while others get little attention — was a key part of journalists’ frustrations with their managers.

“Traditional journalistic values privilege audience perceptions of professionalism, independence, and neutrality,” Nelson writes, “each of which is easier to predict when focused on a fixed audience for a specific news outlet than for the much larger, more amorphous audiences found on social media platforms.”

On top of that, some of the study’s interviewees questioned whether audiences were really so firmly committed to old-school ideas about total objectivity and neutrality, “which many journalists see not only as impossible aspirations on their own, but also as wholly inconsistent with the performed authenticity privileged by social media.” Future research could help untangle this puzzle. Because while research suggests that people generally want journalists to present the news without a point of view, it’s still unclear whether rules and expectations apply the same to social media postings as they might, say, for news articles on legacy platforms.

As Nelson writes, “Perhaps news audiences hold seemingly contradictory preferences, where they value both accurate, opinion-free news stories, as well as the political opinions of the journalists behind them. If this is indeed the case, then it might be in newsroom managers’ best interests to give the public a bit more credit when deciding what those audiences want not only from journalism, but from journalists as well.”

Research roundup

How involved should news organizations be in news literacy efforts? And what are the benefits and drawbacks of their involvement? Those have been crucial questions as educators, news industry leaders, nonprofits and governments have implemented news literacy programs over the past decade. Through these programs, journalists can provide distinct insight into the news production process and humanize their work for people. But journalists’ involvement also risks these programs becoming little more than PR disguised as education.

Yeoman and Morris bring an education lens to this question by looking at five news literacy initiatives for children in the U.K. that incorporate news organizations in some form. They observed lessons and interviewed program leaders and the teachers in whose classrooms they ran. They found that there was some element of “pedagogical public relations” throughout the programs, as their leaders expressed desires to revitalize news by capturing young audiences and frequently contrasted the work of trained professional journalists with other forms of news in their sessions.

The program leaders were wary of the perception of this self-interested motive and were careful not to promote their own news organizations specifically. But they still promoted a largely uncritical view of the work of professional journalists. Yeoman and Morris instead advocated a news literacy approach of “informed skepticism” as part of a national curriculum. Journalists should have a role in such programs, they argued, but we need to be cognizant of news organizations’ self-promotional motivations lest we turn news literacy programs into little more than advertisements for traditional news media.

Zhu and Fu’s study is organized around a fascinating conundrum: If we’re in a high-choice media environment in which a more trusted (or at least more entertaining) news source is a tap away, how is authoritarian propaganda still effective? Zhu and Fu note in particular the online success of People’s Daily and CCTV News, China’s premier Communist Party news sources, which each have more than 100 million followers on Sina Weibo (China’s dominant social media platform), garnering unprecedented popularity in an environment where we might think consumer choice might leave them behind.

The authors were especially interested in whether soft news plays a role in maintaining propaganda’s popularity. Does soft news offer an escape to avoid propaganda, or help capture an entertainment-seeking audience to increase the reach and palatability of propaganda? They tested their hypothesis with 5.7 million Sina Weibo posts over seven years from 103 Chinese newspapers.

The answer, in short, was that yes, soft news does serve as an effective gateway to authoritarian propaganda. More than half (58%) of the news that party daily newspapers published on Sina Weibo was soft news — less than than their non-party counterparts, but enough to have a measurable effect on the popularity of propaganda news (in this study, news about Chinese premier Xi Jinping). An increase in the popularity of soft news one month led to a significant increase in the popularity of propaganda in the next. (And notably, that effect didn’t occur in the reverse.)

There were limits to this strategy — softening the propaganda stories themselves with things like videos actually undermined their effectiveness. But on the whole, the authors conclude, “These batches of human-interest content are devoid of propaganda in text yet are instrumental to propaganda in effect,” as party media uses infotainment to lure in an otherwise politically uninterested audience.

The notion that the boundaries are blurring between news and marketing within news organizations — and even within journalists’ own jobs — is hardly news to anyone at this point. Yet few feel the tension between these two realms quite as acutely as social media editors. It’s not clear there’s much difference on social media between publishing news and promoting it, and social media editors are staking out a home in the newsroom on that fault line.

Neilson and his co-authors explored that defining tension of the work of social media editors by looking at 291 American journalism job postings for social media editors (as well as engagement editors, community managers, audience strategists, and other similar titles). They also interviewed 11 social media editors working at American news organizations.

Among the job postings, they found an interesting dichotomy. Job postings rarely explicitly mentioned marketing as a desire skill or part of the job — rather, journalism experience was the top form of experience sought, almost nine times more than marketing experience. But social media editors’ primary tasks, such as analyzing audience data and helping with audience growth, “could only be classified as marketing.” Those jobs, the authors concluded, were being publicly framed as news jobs, but were in fact more commercially oriented jobs in practice.

In the interviews, though, the authors noted that editors didn’t find many of these day-to-day audience (and metrics) monitoring tasks rewarding. Instead, they were working to redefine their own roles as being oriented around newsroom strategy and decision-making, using their data analysis skills as an attempted avenue into more active newsroom leadership. The boundaries between editorial and marketing work for social media editors, the authors conclude, have not so much been blurred as simply redrawn to include marketing functions as central — and as a potential path to a more managerial role.

It’s become a truism that news, especially in the U.S., has become increasingly national as local journalism has been hollowed out and political dynamics have pushed most debates to the national level. The national media’s preeminence over local media in determining what issues get covered has been demonstrated for decades. But Guo and Zhang’s study tests that notion on local media’s turf, with coverage of urban issues.

Using an automated analysis of thousands of news articles from 21 of the largest cities in the U.S., Guo and Zhang measured coverage over time of 16 locally based issues ranging from taxes to the environment to religion and morality. They found that in only three cities the local media predominantly led the national media in covering these urban issues — Chicago, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. (In about half the cities, there was no significant relationship between local and national coverage.) Across all cities, local media tended to lead on taxes, politics, and media and the internet, and national media led on gun control and crime.

Larger cities were not more likely than smaller ones to lead the national media in coverage of urban issues. Instead, cities’ GDP and number of local news organizations were the strongest factors in predicting whether a city’s local media would lead national media. “Affluent cities with more journalistic resources are more likely to control the information flows,” the authors concluded. This leads to more power for those cities to control their images while leaving less affluent cities even more marginalized.

The push to reinvigorate local news, they said, should center more on those less affluent (and therefore less powerful) cities, though of course their relative lack of wealth makes it more difficult for them to support new or expanded local news initiatives.

The power of Russian media has been widely observed, particularly since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began last year. But two notable recent studies have given us insight into Russia’s media influence through some less-understood avenues. The first of those studies, by Ksenia Ermoshina, examines the process by which Russia asserted its dominance in the media sphere after it began occupying the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014.

Along with a year of fieldwork in Crimea, Ermoshina interviewed 45 Crimean journalists, NGO workers, information security experts, and others. She found that while they all engaged in individual strategies to adapt to Russian rule, those strategies are best understood against the background of infrastructural changes — the ownership of cables and cell towers, and the quality of internet connections. She coins the term “informational annexation” to refer to the process of controlling access and circulation of information that occurred.

While policing content was certainly involved in Russia’s information control strategy, Ermoshina draws attention to the structural elements involved, like choking off internet traffic to turn Crimea into an “informational island” and by making it much more burdensome to travel to and from Crimea, cutting off institutional support and increasing journalists’ perception of the risk involved with reporting.

In the second study, Charlotte Wagnsson and her colleagues sought to determine who watches the Russian state-sponsored propaganda outlets RT and Sputnik outside of Russia and why. They interviewed 43 Swedish consumers of RT or Sputnik and found that while there were many who fit what might be the stereotypical Russian propaganda consumer — right-wing, with strong anti-establishment media beliefs — there were even more who didn’t fit that profile.

Some were more centrist pragmatists, and others were progressive and directly disagreed with views put forward by RT and Sputnik. So why were they consuming that media? The authors broke down a typology of four types of motivations, three of which involved some distance from RT and Sputnik’s positions.

Some (“media nihilists”) distrusted establishment and alternative media but were confident in their ability to consume them skeptically. Others (“reluctant consumers” and “distant observers”) consume media counter to their own ideas more out of curiosity or a pride in keeping tabs on opposing ideas. But all types, the authors concluded, contribute to those organizations’ goal of establishing international influence, since RT and Sputnik “do not need to be seen as legitimate; only as legitimate enough.”


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NowVertical Group Solidifies its Media and Entertainment Vertical with Renewal of The Economist Group – Financial Post



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TORONTO, March 20, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — NowVertical Group Inc. (TSX-V: NOW) (OTCQB: NOWVF) (“NOW” or the “Company”), the Vertical Intelligence (“VI”) company is pleased to announce it has renewed its contract with The Economist Group, the leading source of analysis on international business and world affairs. This most recent renewal marks the second consecutive service extension between the two companies. Based in London and serving a global readership and client base, the Economist Group’s flagship businesses include The Economist newspaper and website and a research and analysis division.

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NOW’s UK-based Acrotrend Group began working with the Economist Group in 2020 to establish capabilities to define and standardize strategic and operational KPIs, provide critical insights for acquisition, retention and engagement, and provide solutions to improve the experience for their subscribers. The Company has also created a framework for delivering a modernized data platform to better serve demands from The Economists’ Marketing, Finance, and Customer Services teams. Under the renewed contract, NOW will continue to provide services to the Economist Group to support its robust architecture and introduce new technologies from the NOW VI-OS.


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With this recent extension, NOW builds on its established list of approximately 30 media and entertainment customers. NOW’s current and past customers include Universal Music Group, Starz, Spotify, and Lionsgate, amongst many others.

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“NOW continues to add incredible value for our Media and Entertainment customers,” said Daren Trousdell, Chairman and CEO of NOW. “This renewal further confirms our strength in the media and entertainment vertical, demonstrating how NOW delivers long-term value through the Vertical Intelligence (VI) approach. We look forward to continuing to drive value for The Economist and showcasing these winning use cases to more customers in this rapidly growing vertical.”

About NowVertical Group Inc.

NowVertical Group is a Vertical Intelligence (VI) software and services provider that delivers vertically-specific data, technology, and artificial intelligence (AI) applications into private and public verticals globally. NOW’s proprietary solutions sit at the foundation of the modern enterprise by transforming AI investments into VI, enabling its customers to minimize their risk, accelerate the time to value, and reduce costs. NOW is rapidly growing organically and through targeted acquisitions. For more information about NOW, visit

Neither the TSX Venture Exchange nor its Regulation Services Provider (as that term is defined in the policies of the TSX Venture Exchange) accepts responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this release.

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For further information, please contact:

Daren Trousdell, Chief Executive Officer
t: (212) 302-0868

Glen Nelson, Investor Relations
t: (403) 763-9797

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Elon Musk roasted for bizarre social media posts about Taylor Swift: ‘Stay away from her’



The divisive CEO of Twitter and Tesla shared comments with followers on his social media site as the Swift began her new Eras Tour in Arizona.

Musk commented underneath a tweet from Dogecoin founder Billy Markus, which read: “Taylor Swift rules and if you disagree you’ll be kicked off the internet i’m pretty sure.”

“Her limbic resonance skill is exceptional,” Musk replied.

“Limbic resonance” refers to the notion that a person’s capacity for sharing deep emotional states stems from the brain’s limbic system.


Musk also responded directly to a tweet from Swift’s official account, which comprised four images of the singer on stage.

The 51-year-old billionaire responded to the collage with a “cigarette” emoji, seemingly implying that he thought Swift was “smoking”.

In another tweet, Musk reacted to a post from a user called “Teslaconomics”, which asked whether Musk and Swift would “make a cute couple”. He replied with a “crying laughing” emoji.

Swift fans were repelled by Musk’s shows of admiration for the artist, with many writing that he should “go to horny jail”.

“You stay away from her,” one person wrote, while another commented: “Elon Musk better leave Taylor Swift alone dawg.”

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“I don’t know what a limbic resonance skill is but I’m gonna work on mine as soon as I find out,” one person joked.

The Independent has contacted a representative of Elon Musk for comment.

Taylor Swift performs at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, 17 March 2023

The opening night of Swift’s tour drew rave reviews from critics and concert-goers, including The Independent’s Kelsey barnes.

In a five-star review, she wrote: “In the 44-song setlist that spans three hours and 15 minutes, [Swift] shows why the ‘era’ concept is so integral to who she is. Each chapter marks a specific shift in her artistry.

“There’s a palpable elation at the State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Costumes are emblazoned with hand-painted lyrics; faces are bright with glitter; hands are covered in Swift’s lucky number 13. The fans I speak to say the concert feels like ‘coming home’.”


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School systems sue social media companies for unprecedented toll on student mental health



School districts across the country are increasingly taking on social media, filing lawsuits that argue that Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and YouTube have helped create the nation’s surging youth mental health crisis and should be held accountable.

The legal action started in January, with a suit by Seattle Public Schools, and picked up momentum in recent weeks as school districts in California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Florida have followed. Lawyers involved say many more are planned.

San Mateo County, home to 23 school districts and part of the Silicon Valley in northern California, filed a 107-page complaint in federal court last week, alleging that social media companies used advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning technology to create addictive platforms that cause young people harm.

“The results have been disastrous,” the filing asserts, saying more children than ever struggle with their mental health amid excessive use of the platforms. “There is simply no historic analog to the crisis the nation’s youth are now facing,” it said.


The suit points to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing climbing rates of depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts among the nation’s high school students. The increasing popularity of social media, it contends, “tracks precisely” with a youth mental health decline. It quotes President Biden’s remarks in his State of the Union address that tactics used by social media companies are an “experiment they are running on our children for profit.

San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools Nancy Magee said in an interview that rampant social media use has left a mark on schools, to the point where administrators have observed a spike in mental health emergencies during the school day. There have been “very serious” cyberbullying incidents related to social media — with content “nearly impossible” to get the companies to take down — and school threats that have kept students at home, she said.

Magee also pointed to other harms — for example, vandalism in high school bathrooms during what was called the “Devious Lick Challenge.” Students across the country stole soap dispensers, flooded toilets, shattered mirrors — then showed off their stunts on TikTok.

The crisis of student mental health is much vaster than we realize

“The social media companies create the platforms and the tools but the impacts are felt by schools, and I would really like to see an understanding of that, ” Magee said. “And then that the education community receives the resources in both people and tools to help support students adequately.”

Social media companies did not directly comment on the litigation but in written statements said they prioritize teen safety and described measures to protect young users.

TikTok cited age-restricted features, with limits on direct messaging and livestreams, as well as private accounts by default for younger teens. It also pointed to limits on nighttime notifications; parental controls, called Family Pairing, that allow parents to control content, privacy and screen time; and expert resources, including suicide prevention and eating disorder helplines, directly reachable from the app.

You Tube, which is owned by Google, has Family Link, which allows parents to set reminders, limit screen time and block certain types of content on supervised devices, said spokesperson José Castañeda. Protections for users under 18 include defaulting uploads to private and well-being reminders for breaks and bedtime.

Meta, which owns Instagram, said more than 30 tools support teens and families, including age-verification technology, notifications to take regular breaks and features that allow parents to limit time on Instagram. “We don’t allow content that promotes suicide, self-harm or eating disorders, and of the content we remove or take action on, we identify over 99 percent of it before it’s reported to us,” said Antigone Davis, Global Head of Safety of Meta.

Snapchat said its platform “curates content from known creators and publishers and uses human moderation to review user generated content before it can reach a large audience.” Doing so “greatly reduces the spread and discovery of harmful content,” a spokesperson said, adding that Snapchat works with mental health organizations to provide in-app tools and resources for users.

The first of the lawsuits, filed Jan. 6 for Seattle Public Schools, said research shows that the social media companies “exploit the same neural circuitry as gambling and recreational drugs to keep consumers using their products as much as possible” and that social media is so popular it is used by 90 percent of those ages 13 to 17. One study showed users check Snapchat 30 times a day, it said. Nearly 20 percent of teens use YouTube “almost constantly,” it said.

Seattle has seen a surge in the share of youth “who say they cannot stop or control their anxiety, who feel so sad and hopeless they stop doing the activities they used to love, who are considering suicide,” or made plans to take their lives or attempted suicide, the suit said.

The Crisis in American Girlhood

Outside Philadelphia, officials in Bucks County filed suit Tuesday against the social media companies, laying out a similar case. It’s not because they are against social media, said Commission Chair Bob Harvie — who points out the county itself has used TikTok — but rather that the algorithms that get teens to “keep looking, keep focusing, keep scrolling” take a toll on kids’ mental health.

“The way we look at it, it’s not unlike the way cigarette companies used to manipulate nicotine levels to make sure that people kept smoking,” Harvie said. “… Our number one priority is just to get the behavior of these companies to change.”

School districts are generally seeking that the conduct of social media companies be declared a public nuisance, that their practices change and that damages be paid to fund prevention, education and treatment for excessive and problematic use of social media.

The 109-page lawsuit on behalf of Bucks County highlights worsening mental health data, saying the problems have “advanced in lockstep with the growth of social media platforms deliberately designed to attract and addict youth to the platforms by amplifying harmful material, dosing users with dopamine hits, and thereby driving youth engagement and advertising revenue.”

Later, it says social apps “hijack a tween and teen compulsion – to connect – that can be even more powerful than hunger or greed.”

In northern New Jersey, the School District of the Chathams has invested increasing resources over the years to help students struggling with anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts, said attorney Michael Innes, whose firm is representing the district in its litigation filed in mid February. The firm filed a similar action for another New Jersey school district, Irvington Public Schools, in early March.

“We’ve spoken to school districts that have made a decision between spending on mental health and spending on classroom education,” Innes said.

For Richard Weissbourd, a psychologist and senior lecturer at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, the lawsuits may make a lot of sense but parents, coaches and others involved in teens’ lives need to become more effective in talking to adolescents about the benefits and hazards of social media.

One problem, Weissbourd said, is that many parents are preoccupied with their own devices. In recent research, he said, many teens reported that their primary caregiver was using a smartphone or computer at times when they wanted help or to be together.

Marisol Garcia, a staff therapist at the Family Institute at Northwestern University, said social media can be a powerful means of connection but the downsides are significant too. She was not surprised schools have begun filing lawsuits, saying they want to do what they think is good for their students’ mental and physical health.

The long-term ramifications of social media use — on attention span, social skills, mental health — are unclear, she said. The legal action, she said, “could be a positive thing.”


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