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Media Bits & Bytes - Turnaround edition

NPR taketh away; The team with a racist name; Truthy-ness; Net neutrality; El Machete strikes


White, White, Don't Tell Me: NPR's bumbling attempts at diversity

By Josmar Trujillo
July 1, 2014

National Public Radio broke the news in May that it was cancelling its popular show Tell Me More, hosted by Michel Martin and heralded by critics like Jeff Yang (Daily Dot, 5/30/14)  for featuring guests "who look like America, rather than the straight white males who are turned to by most media-including other programs on NPR." "We're not stepping away from our commitment to reach a diverse audience," NPR's Lynette Clemetson explained (Current, 5/27/14). But "we've got to come at it from a different angle."

Part of that approach seems to be the hiring of a new (white) CEO, Jarl Mohn, known as a "turnaround specialist," whose explicit goals include changing the perception of NPR that "it's old, it's East Coast and it's white" (The Root, 5/10/14).

But based on the clumsy attempts to address the majority-white programming and listenership at the Los Angeles affiliate where he was board chair, NPR's historic issue with its lack of diversity isn't likely to be fixed by the new boss.

Native American Coalition Urging Broadcasters Not to Use Redskins Name

By Ian Shapira
September 3, 2014
Washington Post

A coalition of more than 100 Native American and social justice groups plans to send a letter Thursday to thousands of television and radio broadcasters in every city with an NFL team asking them not to utter the Washington Redskins name.

The group, led by the National Congress of American Indians and the Oneida Indian Nation, also plans to run radio ads this weekend in Texas, timed for Washington's game at Houston. The radio ad asks people to call their local media outlets to tell them not to use "the R-word" when reporting on the team.

The letter comes after several high-profile media outlets and personalities have denounced the team name and said they won't use it. Last month, The Washington Post's editorial board declared that it would no longer use the name. (The Post's news side continues to use the moniker based on a newsroom policy that requires its reporters to use the names that institutions choose for themselves.) On Wednesday, the New York Daily News said it would no longer use the name in its sports coverage.

How Misinformation Goes Viral: A Truthy Story

By David Uberti
September 3, 2014
Columbia Journalism Review

On August 26, Fox's Megyn Kelly aired a four-minute segment on an Indiana University project called Truthy, declaring sarcastically, "Some bureaucrat deciding whether you are being hateful or misinforming people - what could possibly go wrong?" Fox & Friends jumped onto the bandwagon two days later.

But Truthy isn't new. Indiana University researchers have spent more than three years on the project. They analyze the way information - including misinformation - spreads on Twitter, focusing on virality and how various communities share political discourse through hashtags, retweets, and mentions.

None of the journalists "reporting" on Truthy last week explained the scope of the project, including more than 30 published papers, when crafting their viral output. Instead, they pointed to a two-paragraph abstract in Truthy's $919,917 National Science Foundation grant,  awarded in 2011, as evidence of a link to government surveillance programs. This has all been public since 2011 per grant rules, so it's unclear why conservative media put it in the crosshairs now.

Larry Flynt, Video Games and the Potential Fallout of Net Neutrality

By Tom Risen
September 3, 2014
US News & World Report

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's proposed rules regarding net neutrality - the concept that all traffic is created equal and every website should have the same chance to compete without being slowed, blocked or disadvantaged by Internet providers - have generated more than 1 million public comments, in part out of fear that the proposal would enable Internet service providers to charge for faster online speeds.

Wheeler's rules aim to prevent anti-competitive blocking or slowing of Web traffic. But the establishment of an online "fast lane" could leave behind any companies unable to afford new tolls for Internet use.

Adult entertainment is among the sectors with the most to lose in the net neutrality debate, along with any company that uses online video or real-time actions like gaming that can't afford to pay Internet service providers for faster connections. Access to free content on the Internet has shuttered many adult entertainment businesses, and more will close if paid prioritization becomes the new norm under the FCC's proposed rules, Larry Flynt, owner of Hustler Magazine, tells U.S. News.

"It's doubtful that smaller, independent websites would survive without some kind of net neutrality protection," Flynt says. "It's a huge First Amendment issue."

Behind the Huge Cyberattack Campaign in Latin America that No One has Heard About

By Daniel A. Medina
August 26, 2014

For the past four years, a secret cyber-attack campaign, possibly state-sponsored, has been directed at several Latin American intelligence services, military, embassies and other government institutions. The Moscow-based cyber-security firm Kaspersky Lab, which claims to have unearthed the campaign, has given it a name: El Machete.

According to Kaspersky, the attacks started in 2010. Its Spanish-speaking roots are revealed in the source code of the attackers as well as the nature of the attacked. Most of the attacks' victims are located in countries like Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Cuba, and Spain. One target in Russia turned out to be an embassy of a Spanish-speaking country.

Dmitry Bestuzhev, head of Kaspersky's global research and analysis team for Latin America, says the attackers' identities are unknown, but given the targets, he suspects it is a government actor in the region. That conclusion "is based on the exclusion rule," Bestuzhev tells Quartz. "There are big players on the market so far: cybercriminals, and they look for money; hacktivists, and they look for media presence; and government[s], who look for secret documents and information like this."

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