Amin Marei

I work at Harvard Graduate School of Education as an Associate Director for Professional Education and as a Teaching Fellow. I am responsible for managing and developing professional education programs and strategies for K-12 teachers, with a special focus on international audience. My research focuses on civic education, using informal learning to support education in low-income communities and teacher professional development. I earned my Master’s degree in Education in 2017 at HGSE. I am from Egypt and I actively participated in the Arab Spring.

Flyover tweets & shadow analysis

Searching twitter for only those tweets made in a particular time, in a particular location, is clearly a valuable tool. Twitter is a dazzling fountain of sources, and being able to tie those to a place and time provides context and reduces noise; it’s more likely that a journalist will be able to use the tweets they see in building a story

Geosearch has been around for a while; Echosec, present in a 2016 list of tools for journalists, is branded as a private security / “Open Source INTelligence” platform. With blog posts like “Social Media for Executive Protection” from 2015 and “How Executive Protection Services are Changing” from 2018, they’ve clearly found their niche, and since the time list of tools was written have stopped offering their tools to non-customers.

Socialbearing’s map interface, selecting a tweet considered to have a strongly negative sentiment (it doesn’t).

Socialbearing, on the other hand, focuses on marketing feedback; “insights and analytics”, “sentiment analysis”, and “View top influencers” are their key features. Google Analytics is a clear visual influence (see image). Their product, thankfully, is still available, and even makes some noise about randomizing location markers to protect privacy.

Socialbearing’s interface. It’s always good to see that tweets, by Type, are 100% Tweets.

Journalists can obviously benefit from such tools in myriad ways, most obviously when covering chaotic live events such as a protest, riot, natural disaster, police scene, etc.. Historical searches provide a way to compare locations at a particular time, or track a location over time, providing the oppourtunity for spatially-rich narratives of an event.

But what are the implications of these tools? The breadth of interest in them, combined with the impression that they’re somehow more “real” than twitter (anything on a map is easy to imagine as having already truly happened), makes them an interesting vector for malinformation. Building a fake twitter account that could plausibly be in a particular location takes a different kind of work than your standard fake account, but it probably doesn’t need as many followers/follows to be noticed, and so may be more resilient to discovery attempts. Journalists using these tools may wish to practice a kind of “shadow analysis” to verify whether the incidental information of these tweets and accounts is sufficient to verify a highly spoofable GPS entry.

What I find most intriguing, however, is the perspective these tools offer to the user. By helicoptering the journalist over mapped landscapes and letting them look down to spot individual tweets, they make the user feel powerful, godlike. The world seems understandable, and certainly the streets are understandable in a way they wouldn’t be from the ground during a protest, riot, or natural disaster. While the journalist is already in a position of being at their computer and not on the ground, I feel like geosearches heighten that feeling of distance even more than looking at a stream of text does, and that concerns me. This flyover perspective seems like something that could easily creep into the tone of how something is covered, giving it a strong spin even in the absence of malinformation.

EDIT: this only occurred to me just now in class, but while I saw several posts on “drone journalism” which meant by it using drones for photography, this kind of investigation by signature strike truly seems like journalism coming from the tradition of the drone, with many of the same strengths, the same weaknesses, the same fraught tradeoffs.

Bio: Jason Dearen

I am a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT. Prior to coming to Cambridge I worked as a correspondent for The Associated Press, based in Florida and San Francisco. I am a member of AP’s Global Environment team, a group of journalists who work in different places around the country and globe who cover issues related to climate, industrial pollution, wildlife management, etc…

My focus has been on stories that look at the intersection of the environment and public health. Most recently this was a series and data project looking at the threat climate change poses to people who live around toxic waste sites and other polluted dumping grounds.

Narrative writing is my passion. I’m now working on a book for a Penguin imprint, Avery, that tells the story of a disease outbreak, and the unregulated drug manufacturing industry that caused it. I grew up in California.

When I’m not working I enjoy surfing/swimming, playing the guitar, drinking beer with friends and cooking.

Edward Burnell

Hello! I’m currently in my 5th year as a Mechanical Engineering PhD student at MIT. I used to work in industry on small electric airplanes and (flying) wind turbines, but after seeing how fragile and vital the communications of our design concepts were, went to school to research these difficult to verbalize shared ideas.

I’ve made a programming language and several tools for aerospace engineers which have been adopted by industry, but this kind of shared creative concept doesn’t only occur in engineering, so I’m looking to co-design with other groups of skilled practitioners representations and tools that build on their tacit knowledges.

I’m very excited to work with y’all in this class; there seems to be such a breadth and depth of experience with news / media / journalism, and I look forward to collaborating on projects and assignments!

Outside of research you’ll find me cooking, trying to get engineers + students to consider the social implications of their research, making mesmerizing gifs, or casually interviewing strangers about the habitus of their workplace.

Hi, I’m Devon

Hello, I’m Devon Shapiro. I’m a first-year MBA student at Sloan focusing on entrepreneurship, digital media, and politics. In this class, I’m interested in thinking about the role of journalism in society, especially with respect to how we can create business models that incentivize productive content creation and distribution. In prior lives, I was a consultant and data analyst, first at Analysis Group and later at Legendary Pictures.

My goals for this class are to:

  • Learn from all of you about the journalistic process, what should count as journalism, and maybe even get some help thinking through the role of facts in our society
  • Develop perspective on and a toolkit for navigating the digital media noise
  • Learn how to productively engage in conversations I care about on social media

Some random interests I have:

  • As an undergrad, I was fascinated by how people reconcile capitalism and biblical literalism. I did a major research project on the evolution of fiscal policy preferences among Evangelical Protestants
  • I love to cook and have recently started learning methods of traditional Italian cooking (thanks, Marcella Hazan!) I’m also interested in pickles and have been tweaking a dill pickle recipe for a couple of years
  • I try to prioritize travel – the hope for 2019 is to make it 10 countries

Gabriella Schwarz

Gabriella Schwarz is the Head of Content and Managing Editor at Flipboard, a content discovery platform with over 145 million users. In her role at Flipboard oversees the editorial and publisher strategy, as well as content product innovation. She was chosen as one of The Drum’s 50 Under 30, profiling women in digital media in 2017 and is a 2019 Nieman Fellow at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard.

Before her time at Flipboard, she was a producer at CNN covering politics and then the White House. She won an EMMY award for her coverage of Election Night 2012, traveled around the world covering President Barack Obama and produced a 90-minute documentary about the president that included interviews with him, the first lady, secretary of state and speaker of the House, among others. Earlier in her career she worked at Fox News and Congressional Quarterly. A native of Seattle, she attended Lakeside School and then George Washington University, where she majored in political science.

checkin.io: Humanizing the news, one perspective at a time

By Josh, Drew and Arthur

For our Future of News project, we set ourselves the goal of “Humanizing the news”. Our efforts took the form of a series of iterations between experimenting with and implementing innovations in how news stories are sourced and presented. The slides we presented in Wednesday’s class are here.

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Final project / Eva on Europeans and their stories

Dear Classmates,

To follow up on my presentation in class  last Wednesday, I am sending you the link to the website of my project on storytelling and the European identity (thank you again Katrine for your help!)

I am planning on continuing exploring the project, and would love to have your feedback and hear your thoughts and suggestions about any improvement you might think of. Please, fell free to reach out at my personal email address is: evabernard@gmail.com
I look forward to hearing back from you, and best of luck for the presentations tomorrow!
All the best,
Eva
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Who loses when foreign aid is slashed

Among the details of the 2018 budget proposal presented this week by the Trump administration were plans to slash nearly 30% of the combined State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) budget, with most of the cuts going to foreign aid and assistance.

Climate change work, unsurprisingly, was targeted for elimination or heavy cuts, but other programs included wide-ranging issues and departments such as the Bureau for Food Security, numerous global health programs, the ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues, the Office of the Coordinator for Cyber Issues, the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership, and general development assistance.  

There are many justifiable criticisms of international aid and the bureaucracy of institutions and most people would admit these agencies could be made more efficient. But foreign aid can also clearly save lives and improve living conditions, and many economists have pointed out what a tiny percent it constitutes of the U.S.’s overall federal budget (1.3 percent) and how, despite being the world’s biggest donor, how little we pay relative to GDP in comparison to the world’s other rich countries (.17 percent compared to .7 percent by the UK for example).  The Council on Foreign Relations has a good run down of these issues here.

There are so many other numerous pressing issues commanding our attention these days in terms of petitions to sign, marches to attend, and collective action to be planned. Restoring the Bureau for Food Security may not be the easiest cause to galvanize such acts.  So I’ll make it very simple, here are some places you can support with your wallet to attempt to cover some of the gaps should these cuts be made:

 

Global Health

Miraculously, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has avoided the chopping block. But numerous other programs in multiple countries will likely be effected. Besides the major intergovernmental and multilateral agencies,  Doctors Without Borders is a perennial favorite. But here are aggregations of other possible groups at the global ( here, here, here, here,) regional and local  here, here,  here, here, here and  here ) levels.

Food Security

The major intergovernmental and multilateral agencies play a big role here but other global and local groups also significantly contribute. See aggregations here, here, here and  here.

Women’s issues

The broad category of women’s issues of course can intersect with global health, development, civil liberties and numerous other issues. But here are some places to start:

Global groups  here , here and here. And an overview of a selection of regional groups herehere,  here and here .

 

This provides only the tip of the iceberg of groups working on these issues and, by virtue of necessity, skews heavily towards bigger organizations with a more global scope. Ideally, we would choose the issues that most matter to us and research local groups whose crucial and informed work provides the most sustained commitment.

 

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Fighting Corruption: An Active Pursuit

On Monday, the U.S. State Department posted a story about Donald Trump’s private club, Mar-a-lago. The State Department deleted the post but not before it was tweeted by various U.S. Embassies. The Guardian referred to the post as a blatant “plea for corruption.” This most recent event is one in a series of incidents that have raised serious questions about conflicts of interest and other ethical violations on the part of the Trump administration. Since taking office on January 20, 2017, the Trump administration has faced criticism for a wide variety of potentially corrupt practices involving US corporations, foreign states, transnational and foreign corporations, and nepotism.

Concerns about corruption are not limited to one party or administration, and reports of political corruption and crony capitalism have emerged outside of the administration. These include sitting congressman Chris Collins, who invested $2.2 million dollars in the IPO of Innate, an Australian pharmaceutical company. The congressman exploited a loophole in disclosure laws that do not require the reporting of foreign stock acquisitions by elected officials.

Public anger toward government corruption is driving voter sentiment not only in the United States but also globally. Protests have occurred in Europe (particularly eastern European countries like Romania), Russia, and almost every country in South America. South Korea impeached its sitting president on corruption charges following massive public demonstrations, and Brazil is currently in the middle of its first general strike since 1989. 

Corruption can take many forms and directly affects the ability of citizens to influence their political systems. It widens economic disparities and increases political instability by undermining the rule of law.

If news of the daily shenanigans in Washington feels overwhelming, save time by checking in with a couple of sites that will cut down on the mental fatigue. What The F*ck Just Happened Today? is a well-curated, daily compilation of news about the “shock and awe” of national politics, and the website, corrupt.af, is tracking 292 reports of suspected corruption linked to the Trump administration. The sheer number of instances of corruption can seem overwhelming and intractable, but citizens do have the ability to advocate for change.

Donating to organizations provides financial support for anti-corruption efforts. The ethics watchdog group, Common Cause works to expose political corruption and address issues like political gerrymandering. The group filed an ethics complaint on behalf of the public about the Mar-a-lago post. Represent.us seeks to curb corruption at the city, state, and federal levels through the American Anti-Corruption Act. Transparency International also offers a number of ways for citizens to get involved with fighting corruption. 

Volunteering time or specialized skills to anti-corruption efforts through the organizations listed in this article may be of interest to some readers. Emerging possibilities for citizen participation include efforts to crowdsource fact checking.  More than 1000 volunteers participated in fact checking donor information for Donald Trump’s inauguration, which led to the uncovering of numerous errors. I spent about twenty minutes looking up information on the spreadsheet and really enjoyed participating. The non-profit organization Propublica recently shared access to financial disclosures of Whitehouse staffers with the public. These distributed efforts are in their infancy but show promise and are worth keeping an eye out for in the future.

American corruption and alt-right influence has gone global, with the Kushner family soliciting funds from real estate investors in Beijing in connection with a controversial visa program, and the American alt-right attempting to influence the 2017 French election. Global issues can be combatted on a local level. Help maximize grassroots efforts in your community and your voting power with this checklist. 

Quick tips for active citizenship: Active Citizenship Cheat Sheet

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