It Might Be Too Good To Be True

Social Media Sites Can Facilitate the Spread of False Information– Image courtesy of NPR

We live in a time when the President of the United States can instantly deliver a message to almost 50 million viewers using Twitter, news agencies race each other to see who can break news faster, regardless of the validity, and false claims can go viral and wreak havoc in a matter of minutes. This haphazardness of news and information has led to an era in which it is some how not that strange for public leaders to be arguing about the subjectivity of facts.

This is why it was a relief to read about a team of astronomers from Arizona State University and MIT which spent two years double-checking data which would indicate a huge scientific discovery. It was shocking to me that the team’s immediate reaction was not excitement, but skepticism.

Skepticism, in my opinion, ought to be anyone’s first reaction to news, especially news which is surprising or currently breaking. Because of platforms like social media, where information is reproduced and spread at lightning-fast rates, a dangerous climate has formed of click-bait articles and misleading titles. It has even recently been discovered that on Twitter, false news spreads faster than true news.

Because of this, it is paramount to the success of the modern public relations professional to fact-check and research before relaying information to the public. Ironically, in this day and age, the back lash for being exposed for spreading false information tends to be extremely harsh.

As the team of researchers proved with its extensive fact-checking, true news can still be exciting. When thinking ahead to how I might ensure my client is informative as well as entertaining, there are a few strategies that come to mind. One of them is to lower the frequency of news, as conserving news releases may preserve the luster and excitement of the news itself. Furthermore, there are tactics that I can adopt such as using info graphics and social media tools to remain compelling.

While public relations professionals need to respond quickly, the truth is more important than a race for ‘shares’ and ‘likes’.

An Analysis of H&M’s Garment Scandal and Apology

Screenshot of H&M’s Scandalous Product from USA Today

In early Jan. 2018, the global clothing company H&M released a young boy’s hoodie which read, “The Coolest Monkey in the Jungle”, modeled on a young African American boy. The clothing ad immediately caused wide-spread backlash on the internet, as well as store protests and online boycotts.

H&M released an apology in response to the issue, explaining that the racist undertones were accidental and a consequence of negligence, not intentional discrimination.

After reading the apology statement, my initial thoughts are drawn to the crisis management tactics they employed. The company acknowledged the central faults with the ad while also defending the company in a, in my opinion, tasteful manner. It is clear that H&M wants the public to not only know they are sorry, but also that the incident was purely accidental. However, the company also acknowledges that accidental racism is still racism, and that future steps will be taken to prevent incidents such as this.

H&M has a page dedicated to the apology, has removed the ad from the internet and the hoodie from the market, and has hired a diversity manager to oversee operations and advise. Because of these things, I am inclined to feel that H&M is being sincere with both their apology, and the actions the company is taking to back-up the apology.

Before this assignment, I was aware of the scandal, but as unaware of the official apology and the actions H&M has taken to repair the situation. After researching the issue, I now feel more positively towards H&M and am interested to see what the company does in the future as it continues to operate in today’s social climate which is focused heavily on present-day institutional racism and discrimination



media convergence & its effect on the consumer

People talk about the way media is changing like it’s the end of the world. We talk about how newspaper circulation rates are dwindling, how the 24-hour TV news cycle is ruining the integrity of the information the media gives us, how no one listens to the radio anymore–and all of these issues hold varying degrees of truth, but media convergence doesn’t mean the end of media as we know it. What media convergence does mean is innovation and a whole lot of opportunity.

Newspapers, television and radio have been around for ages. They’ve evolved and changed over the years to better suit their readers, viewers and listeners. When the Internet sprang up, they kept evolving and changing, perhaps a little timidly. Now, with the advent of social media and personal blogging platforms, we have so many options and outlets to stay informed as well as voice our own opinions. Before the Internet, news was largely a one-way street. Newspapers printed what they wanted to say with little interaction from their readers–maybe a letter to the editor or two, but newspapers weren’t about being a conversation. With social media as well as online news platforms, consumers (readers, viewers, etc.) can interact with their news in a new way. Consumers can tweet at the media organizations that deliver their news, offering commentary, praise, criticism–whatever they’d like to say. They can leave (often inflammatory) Facebook comments on links to stories. And, on websites like Medium, anyone can write their own pieces to be published and distributed on the web, covering a variety of topics.

Because new media (as opposed to traditional media) is so widely accessible to a broad audience, it can give more people platforms to have their voices heard. In a way, media convergence affects the consumer by making the consumer, in some way, part of the media. Because we do have access to the Internet and because many once-traditional media outlets are adopting a more online-friendly, digital component to their publications and broadcasts, we get news in a much more personalized, interactive manner. We can get mobile news alerts on our phones, we can like and follow pages and Twitter accounts for news organizations that we enjoy–we tailor our media consumption to our own preferences, and we can interact with those organizations. Media convergence has allowed for a conversation between the consumer and the producers, creating a more interactive experience for us as media consumers.

privacy on the internet: it’s an exchange

I like to think of privacy as an exchange–a transaction, if you will. Like exchanging a handful of quarters for a soda from the vending machine, you exchange your privacy for some convenience or information on the internet.

If you want privacy, you have to be willing to give something up–information, convenience, whatever. So while I’m conscious of the image that I give off through social media, the information about myself that I put out on the Internet, and even the cookies that websites use to track my activity, I’m not overly worried.

I don’t mind sharing information about myself on the Internet. It’s what I’m doing right now, and it’s what I do every time I use Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. I publish my work to the web regularly for The Oklahoma Daily, and I publish my work to my photography portfolio and blog website. In some cases, I want people to see what I’m doing. I want people to see my photography and my work for The Daily,  so I give up some privacy. I want people to see my stories on social media, so I keep my account privacy relatively lax, allowing plenty of people to see what I’m up to. I’m careful about it, of course, but I make a conscious decision to give up my privacy when I’m using the Internet.

Of course, there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes when I’m using social media or even sending an email. As a Gmail user, I know keywords from my email correspondence are picked up and shot off to advertisers, and I know it because when I open emails from my Poem-a-Day newsletter, the ads on the side read “Publish your poetry now!” and “Self publish a book now!” And while I’m not particularly interested in publishing poetry or a book, it’s not overly bothersome to me. I love Gmail. Would I love it more if it wasn’t scanning my emails for advertising buzzwords? Maybe a little. But Gmail is a free service, so I exchange some of my privacy for an email service that doesn’t let lots of spam into my inbox and that works nicely on a lot of devices.

I know that websites track my activity with cookies, too, and I know it because if I’m looking at sweaters online (which, as it so happens, I often do), ads I see on other websites encourage me to buy those very same sweaters or consider different brands of sweaters. This exchange of privacy might seem more malicious because I’m never agreeing to a terms of service upfront when I get to an online store, and I don’t know what other information is being tracked about my Internet use. Still, I’m exchanging some privacy for the convenience of shopping online.

While Internet tracking can quickly go from harmless to sinister, we make a conscious decision to use the Internet to make our lives easier. If Internet services overstep their boundaries in terms of what we’re willing to share with them, we’ll take a stand, and they’ll step back. As long as we’re conscious of how we’re using the Internet and what information we’re divulging about ourselves online, the Internet and all it has to offer can be fabulously useful.