Sunday, February 19, 2017

We need a local non profit media entity that replaces the tired old newspaper model and the 'one size fits anyone' algorithm driven future offered by social media

Yea, I said it.  Non Profit local media.

I'm thinking of a mashup, maybe, of TinkerMill (our local makerspace-provides membership/volunteerism) crossed with NPR (provides individual sponsorship and business underwriting).

Why does this matter?  Because our local news just no longer cuts it.  It's not local, it's not community focused and it's gotten to the point where it's close to useless.

Yes, I'm aware that local news products meant to displace existing media has been tried before. Places like the for profit Backfence, funded with millions of dollars, failed.  There are, of course, organizations that are trying to figure this out, but no real solutions seem to have come from it.

Those that are left, objectively, aren't doing a very good job of it.  As an example:  NPR and PBS.  Both are very good at what they do, but, is there an NPR reporter in my home town?  No.  Have they done a story on my home town?  The last one, I think, was in September of last year.  PBS is the same, as are non profit newspaper entities like the Texas Tribune.  Maybe there's a way to leverage them and help them, but they seem to have their hands pretty full right now just making sure they keep their existing funding.

The bottom line is when it comes to state wide coverage: not bad.  Are they in the city council meetings in local municipalities?  Do they show up at key football games of the local AAAA state champ high school teams?  Are they at the school board meetings?  Do they even know my town's got one of the best microbrewery networks in the country?  No way.

I suspect that it's because it's generally been under the watchful eye of existing journalism types and  non profit experts and has tended to repeat the mistakes of the old school models.  Maybe a more local non profit tech focused alternative view can come up with a viable approach.  Mix in the community operated/non profit aspect and it could work.


After creating the non profit 501(c)3 TinkerMill, and nurturing it, with a great group of co-founders, into being one of the more successful makerspaces in the country with almost 500 members and counting as of early 2017 with a self sustaining membership driven revenue and operations model that's bringing in six figures, more than enough to operate an exceptional space, all focused on our local community, and after having done a few other non-profity things as side projects over the last 25years, most of which did reasonably well, I have to wonder:  Can we create a non profit community focused local newspaper/radio/TV replacement that's also better than being sucked in and consumed by Facebook and it's ilk?

I'm reasonably sure the answer is yes, but, can it be better than what's there now?

TinkerMill taught us quite a bit about how to mobilize and engage different parts of a community.  From residents to government, to business to schools to other non profits and community groups.  It takes many aspects of a local community to create a community resource.

What I really want to do is see if there's a way to replace, or at the very least, seriously augment, the existing local newspaper/radio/tv/social media realm.

In our city, we don't even have a local news radio station or a TV station and the newspaper is owned by a regional entity that's owned by a hedge fund out of New York City that's primary goal is to cut costs and provide the least possible service for the most possible money.  They recently announced that they are moving the entire staff of the Longmont Times Call (about 22 people) out of Longmont to the offices in Boulder.  So, they sit in another city and pump out 2, maybe 3 stories a day (sometimes less) and then reuse stories from other newspapers in the area they own.  If you're working in an office half an hour away from the city you're 'covering', you simply cannot cover that city well.  Not even kind of well.  That's what we, and thousands of other cities across the world, are facing.

Our newspaper is no longer a local municipally focused news source, it's a slowly dying cash machine that's being squeezed dry for every cent of profit possible with no sense of what's important to the local community by these out of state hedge funds that own them.

The current for profit entities such as Facebook, or even smaller startups like NextDoor, which seems to be where many are getting their 'news' now, are a source readers should think long and hard about trusting; they're globally focused for profit companies who make their money off of your personal information, and part of the process is 'building a global newsroom run by robot editors and it's own readers'.  It is, effectively, a blueprint for destroying journalism.  85% of the online ad dollars that once paid for your local newspaper to operate are now sucked up by two companies:  Facebook and Google.  Remember, if the product is "free", you are the product; they're selling your personal information in exchange for these ad dollars.  The news they create?  It's driven by an algorithm; not a human who really knows anything about your local community.

Even Google, with it's Google News product, an excellent source for news, has a 'local' section that's just using an algorithm to aggregate existing mostly for profit news sources that, also, don't really cover local news any more.

There's just not a recipe for an engaged and informed local community media outlet from any of the current for profit entities;  at least, none that I can see.

I'm all for using algorithm's where it makes sense, but, I also think there's a very real need for local human curation of things that touch, well, local humans and the local community they live in.  Most likely, it's a hybrid of both - human curation and smart/useful algorithm's - and driven at a local level, not by a huge 2 billion user silicon valley behemoth.  We can get there, but, we're not there.  Not just yet.

So, maybe, the answer is a non profit that's using humans and technology in smart ways that haven't been tried before at a local level.

Just for fun, I wrote up a quick one pager on what that might look like.


The Local News Network  (LNN)

"No opinions, politics or religion; just the facts." 
(a pipe dream maybe, but worth a shot)

The purpose of LNN will be to create a non partisan non-profit platform that can be operated within a municipality such as Longmont, CO. and possibly many other cities around the world, that is owned and operated by it's residents as a replacement, or least serious augmentation, of dying for-profit local news entities such as newspapers.  It's delivery will be through website(s), podcasts, online streaming of audio and video using existing technology and distribution platforms such as YouTube, WordPress, Podcasts and other low/no cost open source software solutions as they become available re-purposed to deliver local news to local residents.  Automated distribution to social media networks will also be part of the process.  In addition, we'll explore using localized versions of existing old school media such as a weekly newspaper like the Boulder Weekly and Westword, local LPFM (low power FM) radio stations and local low power TV broadcasting.


  • Economy & Business
  • Education
  • Energy & Environment
  • Government
  • Health & Human Services
  • Law & Order
  • People
  • Politics (without opinion)
  • Race & Immigration
  • Transportation
  • Art and Music
  • Technology
  • Sports
  • Human Interest Stories

PRODUCTS AND SERVICES (ideas only here, many many ways to approach this)

  • An up to date website with all of the above areas of coverage.
  • A weekly paper newspaper, effectively a 'snapshot' of the website printed on paper, distributed to news stands at key positions in town and through memberships. (this may be a really stupid idea, but it's worth investigating, if for no other reason than it's working in some places and it might be a good transitional mechanism for many people).
  • A streaming and podcast driven radio station with member and volunteer provided content focused on local news and events.  If possible, an LPFM (Low Power FM) radio station (depends on availability of licenses).
  • A streaming and podcast driven video station with member and volunteer provided content using, mostly, YouTube initially and expanding to other platforms if needed.  If possible, a low power broadcast TV station (depends on availability of licenses).
  • Automated distribution to relevant social media platforms.
  • Development of tools, both computer and mobile device oriented, that allow the simple and easy creation and operation of this local news network's content and distribution.
  • Simple to use services like a small cheap radio streaming server that costs $150 in hardware and uses free opensource software and that you can set up on your desk and support 100's, potentially thousands, of listeners, simultaneously. 
  • Potentially most important: Archives.  This would be the only real, reliable archive of local news information (starting on day one of it's operation) in the city.  Local for profit newspapers can no longer be depended on to provide this service.  They are deleting old stories from their websites and spotty if not downright derilict in their archiving for long term access our cities news records.  the LNN would be owned by the residents of the city itself.  As long as the community exists and supports it's Local News Network, that information will be available for future reference, and future generations.  No one's doing this now.  No one.  We need to understand out past to understand our future.
  • Many more ideas here, but let's get started first.


A non profit 501(c)3

Member's and volunteers provide the majority of content

A strong focus on curation (editorship) of existing available content and the new member/volunteer provided content

Use of existing platforms (exp: YouTube, TuneIn, WordPress) with the philosophy of 'don't reinvent what you don't have to'


LNN should focus on self-sustaining levels of funding from day one (i.e not depend on grants, but still get them as needed to expand).

Membership by local residents and sponsorship by local businesses.

Outside of the local municipality sponsorship and grant funding, mostly for startup and periodic expansion and technology costs.

Crowdfunding - by asking the community for funding, as needed, similar to to the processes you see used by entities like NPR or PBS, to donate monies to operate the day to day business of creating, collecting, curating and distributing local news and information.  This is, to a degree, happening now in Philadelphia with The Inquirer, The Daily News and


I've been thinking about this issue since the early 90's and quite honestly I'm not sure what the solution is or what the next steps really are.  I am pretty sure that no one else has the exact answer, yet.  Maybe we just need to get it going here in my town and see what happens.  I think it's time to start playing around more seriously with how we do this and one of the best ways to do that is to simply start.

Oddly, was actually available so, I just registered it. (no there's nothing there yet).

But, at least that's a start.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

What is (and isn't) fake news and why is it important we train ourselves to know the difference?

Fake News is everywhere, and no where.  It's undermining our 4th estate and it's being used by unsavory forces in truly scary ways.  

This post from a reddit user (Deggit) outlines what's really going on.  Every citizen interested in truth should read it.

There was a fascinating and brillant exchange on Reddit ( about 'fake news' that every citizen who wants to stay informed should read.  Here is the initial post (from reddit user 'DongMy') and then the reply (from reddit user 'Deggit').

From user DongMy:  

Actually a lot of fake news is being generated by the government itself now.  Obama repealed the law to prevent government propaganda and in 2011 removed the last remnants of the Fairness Doctrine which required broadcasters  to both present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was honest, equitable, and balanced in order to help push his agendas.  When you consider 90% of the media is owned by 6 companies which includes all TV, radio, news and movies, most of which have a bias and agenda, this is a big problem.  It's no wonder the political division and fake news has gotten so much worse since he was elected.  Image of his post:

Response by user Deggit:

To anyone coming from bestof, here is the comment I was replying to. I have responded to many comments at the bottom of this post, hopefully in an even handed way although I admit I have opinions yall...

The view presented by this 1 month old account is exactly how propaganda works, and if you upvote it you are falling for it.

Read "Nothing Is True And Everything Is Possible" which is a horrifying account of how the post-Soviet Russian state media works under Putin. Or read Inside Putin's Information War.

The tl;dr of both sources is that modern propaganda works by getting you to believe nothing. It's like lowering the defenses of your immune system. If they can get you to believe that all the news is propaganda, then all of a sudden propaganda from foreign-controlled state media or sourceless loony toon rants from domestic kooks, are all on an equal playing field with real investigative journalism. If everything is fake, your news consumption is just a dietary choice. And it's different messages for different audiences - carefully tailored. To one audience they say all news is fake, to those who are on their way to conversion they say "Trust only these sources." To those who might be open to skepticism, they just say "Hey isn't it troubling that the media is a business?"

Hannah Arendt, who studied all the different fascist movements (not just the Nazis) noted that:

In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and nothing was true. The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness.

Does that remind you of any subreddits?

The philosopher Sartre said this about the futility of arguing with a certain group in his time. See if any of this sounds familiar to you

____ have chosen hate because hate is a faith to them; at the outset they have chosen to devaluate words and reasons. How entirely at ease they feel as a result. How futile and frivolous discussions appear to them. If out of courtesy they consent for a moment to defend their point of view, they lend themselves but do not give themselves. They try simply to project their intuitive certainty onto the plane of discourse.
Never believe that ______ are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The ____ have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors.
They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert. If you press them too closely, they will abruptly fall silent, loftily indicating by some phrase that the time for argument is past. If then, as we have been able to observe, the ____ is impervious to reason and to experience, it is not because his conviction is strong. Rather his conviction is strong because he has chosen first of all to be impervious.

He was talking about arguing with anti-Semites and Vichyists in the 1940s.
This style of arguing is familiar to anyone who has seen what has happened to Reddit over the past 2 years as we got brigaded by Stormfront and 4chan.

Ever see someone post something that is quite completely false, with a second person posting a long reply with sources, only to have the original poster respond "top kek, libcuck tears"? One side is talking about facts but the other is playing a game.

Just look at what happened to "Fake News."

This is a word that was born about 9 weeks ago (note: actual date he's talking about is around the first or second week of November, 2016). It lived for about 2 weeks as a genuine English word, meaning headlines fabricated to get clicks on Facebook, engineered by SEO wizards who weren't even American, just taking advantage of the election news wave:

  • "You Won't Believe Obama's Plan To Declare Martial Law!"
  • "Hillary Has Lung, Brain, Stomach, And Ass Cancer - SIX WEEKS TO LIVE!"

For a while, it seemed like the real world could agree that a word existed and had meaning, that it referred to a thing. Then the word was promptly murdered. Now, as we can clearly see, anyone who disagrees with a piece of news - even if it is NEWS, not an editorial - feels free to call it "Fake News." Trump calls CNN fake news.

There is a two step process to this degeneration. First, one gets an audience to believe that all news is agenda-driven and editorial (this was already achieved long ago). Second, now one says that all news that is embarrassing to your side must be editorial and fabricated.

So who is the culprit? Who murdered the definition of fake news? A group of people who don't care what words mean. The concept that some news is fake and some news is not was intolerable, as was any distinction between those who act in good faith and sometimes screw up, vs those who act in bad faith and never intended to do any good - a distinction between the traditional practice of off-the-record sourcing and the novel practice of saying every lie you can think of in the hope one sticks. The group of people I'm talking about cannot tolerate these distinctions. Their worldview is unitary. They make all words mean "bad" and they make all words mean "the enemy.". In the end they will only need one word.


This post is so biased. I was ready to accept its conclusions but you didn't have anything bad to say about the Left or SJWs so it's clearly just your opinion.

Wrong (sniffle) "Fake News" actually means ____ instead

No, the term goes back to a NYT investigative report about some people in SE Eur who "harvest" online enthusiasm by inventing viral headlines about a popular subject, & who realized that Trump supporters had high engagement. This is no different than what the National Enquirer does (TOM CRUISE EATING HIMSELF TO DEATH!) except the circulation was many times more than any tabloid due to the Facebook algorithm and the credulity of their audience.

But what about the MSM? Haven't the media destroyed their own credibility with OBVIOUS LIES?? What about FOX News? What about liberals who call it FAUX News?

I remember Judy Miller as well as anyone, people. I also remember Typewritergate and Jayson Blair. And sure one can always go back to the Dean Scream or, as Noam Chomsky points out, the fact that Lockheed Martin strangely advertises on news shows despite few viewers can afford to buy a fighter jet... there have always been valid critiques of the media. But I am talking here about something different.

The move of taking a news scandal and using it to throw all news into disrepute is what this post is about.

Briefly in my OP (note:Original Post) I talked about the first step of propagandization, which is inducing a population to see ALL news as inherently editorial and agenda driven. This was driven by the 24 hours news cycle and highly partisan cable tv. We have arrived in a world where a majority of people think the invented term "MSM" (always applied to one's enemies) has any definitive meaning, when it doesn't. The most-watched cable news editorialist on American television calls a lesser-watched editorialist on a rival network "the MSM," when neither man is even a newsreader. It's absurd.

The idea that the news is duty bound to report the remarkable, abnormal, or consequential, has been replaced by the idea that all news is narrative-building to prop up or tear down its subject. We already saw this early in the primary when the media was called dishonest and frenzied just for quoting Trump. A quote can no longer be apolitical! If it's damaging, the media must have been trying to damage.

Once this happens, it is a natural next step to adopt the bad-faith denial of anything that could be used against you. This is what Sartre talks about; the "top kek" thought-terminator makes you "deliberately impervious" to being corrected. Trump denied he ever said climate change was a hoax even though he has repeatedly tweeted this claim over years; journalists collated those tweets; and the top-kekers responded by saying the act of gathering those tweets is "hostile journalism."

Pluralism cannot survive unless each citizen preserves the willingness to be corrected, to admit inconvenient facts and sometimes to admit one has lost. In that sense alone, the alt-right is anti-democracy.

Isn't the Left crying and unwilling to admit they lost the election? That's anti-democratic too.

I invite you to consider the response of T_D in the hypothetical that Trump won the popvote by 3 million, lost the Electoral College and it was revealed that HRC was in communication / cooperation with one of this nation's adversaries while promising to reverse our foreign policy regarding them.

"Sartre was a dick."

Top kek, analytic tears.
(Real answer: yes, he was but the point still stands).

You can see the entire thread on reddit here:

Special thanks to ggirl for pointing this out on her google + feed.