One of the more troubling trends of the past few months is the growing lack of consensus about the basic information that should be – that used to be – the underpinning of rational dialogue. We’ve written about the rise of so-called “alternative facts,” but this edition of Recent Reads is heavy on the controversial topic of “fake news.”
Perhaps relatedly, we’re also looking at new ways information can be consumed – and at how artificial intelligence might not take over the world after all. But it sure seems poised to take a lot of jobs.
With that, here’s the latest Recent Reads.
The new civic course in U.S. schools: How to spot fake news – For those of us PR pros/news junkies, it can be very frustrating to have conversations with our children about current events. If your kids are like mine, they believe that Facebook or Twitter is the source of what they read, so they trust it. Schools are seeing this troubling trend and are proposing curriculum to support what kids should do to identify and ignore fake news. While fake news has always existed, it is an interesting educational outcome from the 2016 presidential election. – Larry Larsen
Colorado Newspaper Vows Defamation Suit After Senator’s ‘Fake News’ Tweet – I’ve been wondering when something like this would happen. A Colorado newspaper publisher is threatening to sue a state senator for defamation after he tweeted that the publication is “fake news.” Of course, threats of lawsuits don’t always end up with court filings – and proving actual damages could be difficult. But considering that public officials (or, really, any member of society) can now compete with traditional news outlets as far as reach on social media – and if we’re all journalists now – why shouldn’t a news organization explore its legal options? Especially when reputation – possibly the most valuable thing traditional media outlets still have – is at stake? – Paul Wilson
Donald Trump delivers a series of raw and personal attacks on the media in a news conference for the ages – It was already a volatile week for the White House – Michael Flynn’s resignation, the Labor Secretary nominee stepping aside and rumored staff infighting – but President Trump incredibly and predictably came out swinging during a combative press conference Thursday. From the article, “Trump understands something very important: For his supporters, the media represents everything they dislike about American society.” Whether cracks are forming in the administration or not, Thursday was a clear example of President Trump’s strategy to avert the public’s eyes when things aren’t going his way. Instead of talking about Russia or Flynn, we’re now focused on the press conference. Is this his perceived authenticity in action as we discussed late last week? Perhaps, but maybe the better question is at what cost? – Christian Erard
Flipboard revamps its approach personalized news with new “Smart Magazines” – I love the concept of a Smart Magazine from Flipboard. I can’t consume enough material – books, magazines and blogs – and wish I was one of those people who only needed three hours of sleep so I could read more. The choices can be overwhelming, but one needs to commit to actively reading. I hope Flipboard does well with this and am now seeking a B2B version. Smarter, mobile content to replace the laundry lists of blogs, articles and white papers on most professional services websites may have been a pipe dream a few years ago. Maybe Flipboard can make it a reality. – Pam Munoz
Can Virtual Reality Teach Empathy? – This headline caught my attention and made me ask how a technology tool can create empathetic feelings. The article describes how a teacher is immersing VR into his curriculum, so students can literally see lessons “from wandering the streets of ancient Rome to touring the International Space Station.” Educators are cautious about implementing VR, like any technology, but this article describes one of its clear strengths – the ability to tap emotions. As VR enters the classroom more regularly, it makes me wonder how/if businesses will implement it into their strategies. – Sarah Rocca
How tech ate the media and our minds – Technology has fundamentally changed the way the average individual receives information. This article underscores just how much the environment has changed – and the media landscape along with it – during the past decade. In the B2B world, there is still somewhat of a disconnect about how engaged companies should be and what their return on investment actually is. Do corporations and senior executives truly make purchasing decisions at least partly based on what they read in their LinkedIn or Twitter feed? We think the answer is in the eye of the beholder and we advise our clients not to risk it; you don’t want to be conspicuous by your absence. – Larry Larsen
The AI Threat Isn’t Skynet. It’s the End of the Middle Class – Turns out all (or, at least, most) of the fiction about artificial intelligence taking over the world was only half-right. The real concern among scientists these days isn’t a Terminator scenario – it’s economic catastrophe, with a proliferation of automation and technology supplanting middle-class jobs. This is definitely worth watching in the next few years, especially considering how much economic hardship in traditional blue-collar areas played a role in November’s presidential election. – Jackson Pillow