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On election night in Catalonia, all eyes were on the final result brought about by the combined forces of groups supporting independence. VilaWeb.cat turned that into a map… mapping the referendum results. Like many other newspapers, VilaWeb got the results of the live vote-counting in real-time, but rather than simply broadcasting the raw data, it created a real-time mashup of the number of votes for pro- and anti- independence groups in each town. The result was like showing the outscore of the referendum before the referendum itself.
VilaWeb, Barcelona’s leading online newspaper, also used another important data journalism tool during the campaign: the Tweet-o-meter. The newspaper followed the twitter account of every election candidate and recalculated the most retweeted messages every hour. Using a specially designed algorithm and the Twitter API, the tweet-o-meter avoided same party retweets and party propaganda. The result was a panel classifying the most retweeted messages at hourly and daily intervals and for the whole campaign. Candidates quickly began to use the #tuitòmetre hashtag to promote their own messages.
Both projects were created by VilaWeb Labs, a spin-off for journalistic innovation created by VilaWeb to bring new ideas into the newsroom, while also helping other media outlets. VilaWeb is the leading Catalan language newspaper and the oldest of the European internet pure players.
Nine million tickets were sold, 962 medals awarded. More than 10,000 athletes competed. At least 21,000 journalists created stories watched by 4 billion global viewers. All of which was done in the two weeks of the London Olympic Games. The record number of journalists covering the event and the millions of people discussing it via social media were expected to make these Games different from all others in the past. Even before it started, the London Olympic Games were called the first social media Olympics. Social media was expected to become a serious rival to traditional coverage and the London Olympics were to be covered differently. Both journalists and the Game organizers recognized the use of social media as not only a big opportunity, but also as a threat. This reality begged the question: were the first social media Olympics #winning? Or were they a #fail?
Looking back at past Olympic games, the power of social media was evident starting in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Back then, Twitter had a total of 6 million users, which quickly reached 500 million users by 2012. Facebook use has also skyrocketed during recent years – from 100 million users in 2008 to 900 million in 2012. These numbers do not include Chinese social media users, which adds an additional 1,5 billion with networks such as Sina Wibo and Tencent Weibo.
Among these social media users are the athletes and their trainers, representatives of sport organisations, journalists covering the event, and other people taking part behind the scenes of the Olympic games. These people could easily use social media to ‘spoil’ or use the information they get in an unauthorised way in social networks. The organization committee of the London Olympic Games were the first to deal with the reality of a large number of people having ‘ticking bombs’ in their hands and therefore had to invent a strategy in order to control the situation in an advantageous way.
Trust but verify
Taking the simultaneous power and danger of unmanaged social media into consideration, for the first time in the history of the Olympic Games the International Olympic Committee (IOC) set the rules for social media use, which stated: “[…] it is entirely acceptable for a participant or any other accredited person to do a personal posting, blog or tweet. However, any such postings, blogs or tweets must be in a first-person, diary-type format and should not be in the role of a journalist”. The IOC’s interest in controlling the social media was motivated mostly by commercial interests, however it was important for the journalists as well. As discussed previously, the use of social media was thought to be replaced with traditional media, which was something that was very unlikely from the media’s point of view. The IOC, by restricting the use of social media, especially among athletes, limited the amount of information that could be made public without any participation of the journalists, which at some point saved their position in the Olympics.
While the athletes had many restrictions when it came to tweeting and blogging from the Games, they could still share their personal thoughts, which was in the strong interest of their fans. As Financial Times sport reporter Simon Kuper pointed out, the main difference in coverage of these Olympic games compared to the past is the lesser amount of interviews with the players.
“Journalists are being pushed out of the game by the athletes. Now players can ‘tweet’ about how they feel after the game instead of telling it to a journalist. It is getting harder to get a player to talk. We still need professionals however, for most of the in-depth analysis of the game” Kuper explains.
He argues that athletes tweeted less than was expected during the London Olympic Games due to the restrictions. “The athletes used social media a little bit less than was expected, because there were warnings that they had – you can’t say this, you can’t say that. A couple of athletes were sent home because of the things they tweeted, so the effect was more material from the fans than the athletes during London Olympic Games”.
Tweets flooding in
While the insiders at the Olympics were managed by the IOC rules, the crowd of Olympic observers was free to do what they wanted. And they did. The audience bombarded the internet with posts and tweets about the event. According to the social advertisement company “Wildfire”, Olympic events fuelled 150 million tweets in total, comparing to 125 thousand during the Olympics in Beijing. The event was mentioned in tweets more than 11 billion times. Some single events ended up sparking a record amount of tweets, as did the 200-meter sprint by Usain Bolt, which was tweeted 80 thousand times per minute during the race!
Social media activism during the Olympics had an impact on the work of traditional journalists as well. The large information flow had to be managed not only in terms of content, but also technically. Organizers were not ready for tweet- and text-clogged networks and it caused some problems for various official broadcasters. An example of this was during one of the cycling races, when fans were actively reporting from the event and the flooded communication system as well as GPS failed. The journalists couldn’t get the data, the broadcast was impaired, and the audience dissatisfied. At the end of it all, the organizers were forced to restrict the social media usage during the races and asked the fans to tweet only in cases of urgent need. The fact that such actions had to be taken shows the direction Olympic hosts might want to move towards in future improvements.
Bridging new forms of cooperation
One of the overlooked aspects about the London Olympic Game coverage was the fact that the traditional media expressed a strong will to cooperate with social media. The decision of NBC to engage in a partnership with Twitter was widely discussed and welcomed with great interest. The fact that it never happened before brought a lot of thoughts and doubts with regards to a collaboration between NBC and Twitter.
Time Magazine TV critic James Poniewozik compared the NBC Olympic coverage to that of major airlines. He tweeted: “its interest is in giving you the least satisfactory service you will still come back for”. But while the NBC Olympic coverage was given a “fail” by many Americans and widely criticized, the partnership with Twitter did have some benefits. The special page on Twitter updating people with live coverage from the Olympic event was followed by millions of people and in turn, millions of people tweeted about the Olympics from their own accounts, which increased the popularity of the event and its viewer ratings. By the end, the London Olympics became the most watched event in the history of American TV. Whether it was because of the great success of American Olympians or because Twitter encouraged people to watch it, it is hard to say, but the result is obvious.
The first child in the family
“These Olympics had Sydney’s vibrancy, Athens’s panache, Beijing’s efficiency, and added British know-how and drollery”, Australian journalist Greg Baum wrote.
The 2012 Olympic games, a.k.a. the first social media Games, were like a family’s first-born child. There were some mistakes due to the parents’ lack of experience, however in the end the child grew up quite nicely. In the future, the organisers, media, and even the athletes may do things differently when it comes to their ‘second child’. Social media ended up being quite advantageous for the organisers and even the traditional media. The Olympic games attracted plenty of attention worldwide and brought the best ratings ever to the broadcasters. Of course, not all these benefits were thanks to social media. But Twitter and Facebook undoubtedly helped. The next summer Olympics will take place in Rio in 2016 and the winter Olympics will happen in 2014 in Sochi. Future organisers will have to consider social media as an important issue and raise the ‘second child’ in the family as the best example for all children in the neighbourhood.
Filed under news.
Last month, New York lawmakers legalized same-sex marriage making New York the sixth and largest state in the US, so far, to recognize gay couples’ right to wed. The decision seemingly had a national impact as it widened the right to marry for gay couples all over the country.
On Wednesday, the US Senate Judiciary Committee discussed ways to stop the gay marriage ban with the help of the White House. Shin Inouye, a spokesperson from the White House, said, “The president has long called for a repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which continues to have a real impact on the lives of real people.”
Outwardly, US government officials and politicians are working to expand the basic civic rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people in various ways. Contrary to what’s happening in the US, however, the European Union is having a difficult time to compromise the basic civil rights of LGBTI people in its member states.
Is Eastern Europe to blame?
“One thing that I have learned in following the extension of the EU from fifteen, to twenty-five, to twenty-seven member states, is that we suddenly have to fight the same battle all over again. That battle is about women’s rights and nondiscrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.” Michael Cashman, a MEP, and co-president of intergroup on LGBTI rights in European Parliament said.
On 11 June 2011 the first LGBTI pride march in Split, Croatia was met by about 6,000 anti-gay protestors. Croatia is waiting to join the EU in 2013. Credits: “LGBTQ Nation”
In fact, before the EU had expanded to twenty-seven countries and when it included countries from the eastern parts of Europe, it already had an inconsistent policy of recognizing same-sex marriage or same-sex relationships within the member states.
Until now, only five countries in the EU, including Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden, have legalized same-sex marriage. While twelve countries, including France and the UK, do recognize the legal right of civil partnership between gay couples, Italy and Greece, one of the first countries to join the EU, still do not acknowledge any legal rights of LGBTI couples.
Despite the fact that article 21 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union banned any discrimination based on sexual orientation, there is still a majority of the EU member states that do not yet guarantee same sex marriage to their citizens. On this account, it is not strange to witness that some critics have questioned the authenticity of the EU’s actual interest in following the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
Several signs of moving forward
EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding seems to understand these doubts and criticisms. A month ago, she spoke at the Parliament and explained that the Commission will introduce a fundamental rights chapter into EU law in the future.
On 30 June 2011, The European Parliament held a public hearing on LGBTI rights in the world. Ulrike Lunacek MEP, left, and Michael Cashman, right, Co-Presidents of the LGBT Intergroup moderated the discussion. Credits: “EU Parliament”
Prior to this ambitious remark, the EU parliament rejected the new Hungarian constitution because it failed to forbid discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. Recently, the Commission and Parliament have tried to make the case of LGBTI persons a central topic in EU politics. Cashman said, “We must fight for other countries where there is inequality whether it’s in Poland, Malta, or Germany.” He even mentioned the United States. But still, there are some remaining issues in the EU, which will hopefully decrease in upcoming years.
Potential candidate countries
Currently, there are five official candidate countries, including Croatia and Turkey, which are waiting to join the EU. Apart from Iceland, none of these countries recognize same-sex marriage. In fact, the Minster of Family Affairs in Turkey made a comment to the Turkish newspaper “Hurrivet” saying, “I believe homosexuality is a biological disorder, an illness, and should be treated.” This comment aroused huge backlashes from gay activists in Turkey.
Ideals vs. Reality
The EU has always been known for its ideals, which are promoting peace, freedom and equality around the world. That is why article 2 of the Treaty of the European Union says, “The European Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities.”
Michael Cashman is one of the most active MEP members to protect LGBTI people’s rights in the member states and is one of a few openly gay MEP members in EU parliament. Photo by Taein Park
Cashman, elected MEP of the Year for Justice and Fundamental Rights in 2007, emphasized that the focus of the EU should be global. In addition, he insisted very rigidly that he would fight for the basic civil rights of LGBTI people not only in Europe and the United States, but also all over the world. The US, however, appears to have found their own way when it comes to fighting for gay couples’ right to marry.
It is now time for the EU to come up with their own way of protecting the basic rights of LGBTI people within the member states. The EU needs to take a step forward in order to reach their ideals in vigorous ways. As Israeli Philosopher Avishai Margalit says, “Ideals may tell us something important about what we would like to be, but compromise tells us who we are.”
The EJC and the Kamel Shiaa Foundation are pleased to announce that the first Kamel Shiaa Prize for Iraqi press freedom has been awarded to the Iraqi journalist Maryam Mohammed Jaafar for her article “Violence is spreading among the Iraqi children”.
The jury, composed of six international journalists, chose the winner out of 33 candidates. It was unanimously decided that the strength of Jaafar’s article rests on its promotion of children’ s rights and intercultural dialogue. Jaafar will have the opportunity to spend three months in Brussels to report on subjects throughout Europe in addition to receiving skills training to further improve her craft under the auspices of the EJC.
Violence is spreading among the Iraqi children, by Maryam Mohammed Jaafar
The car stopped suddenly in one of Baghdad’s streets. The driver came down to inspect the engine, asking the passengers to assist him to repair it. And after moments a large number of armed men, led by their leader, came waving their guns towards the passengers.
The leader of the group shouted in the face of the passengers “Are you Sunni or Shiaa?” Replied one of the passengers “Shiaa”, the leader shouted “Kill him” and another asked “Are you Shiaa or Sunni?” He replied ”A Sunni”. The leader said “This is a wrong answer ‘Kill him…”
This is not a scene from a film recording the killings in Iraq, but only a game played by the children in a suburb of Baghdad before their father calls them. “Come, O my children, it is the first day of Eid, let’s go to the city of fun fairs.” The dead regains standing position and holds guns and knives of plastic with the promise of resuming the game in the amusement park.
Mohammed and his brothers, just like any other Iraqi children, spend the money of Eid to buy plastic guns in order to play a game of murder and terrorism. That game has spread recently among children and became their favourite one.
In the northern Baghdad neighbourhood of Kadhimiya, the little Abbas, aged 11, is at a checkpoint near his home and always sits next to the guards trying to imitate them.
His mother says she feels uncomfortable about Abbas since he does not leave his plastic gun as if living in a military barracks. And when he plays with his brothers at home he pulls his plastic gun in their faces and start screaming like insurgents.
She adds that “when he gets some money he goes and buys a plastic pistol or rifle.” “I am afraid that one day he will carry a real weapon and pull it against others,” she adds.
Lots of fathers and mothers in Iraq are complaining that their children have become addicted to tough games and expressed their fears that events in Iraq will affect their future behaviour.
Some parents noticed that their children began to use violence with the younger siblings, and prefer isolation, withdrawal from community and fear the dark. In addition the use of bullying that enjoins others to listen to their words.
In a study published by the Iraqi Psychologists Association, the violence has affected millions of Iraqi children and became constituting a source of serious concern on future generations.
The study urged the international community to assist to establish psychiatric units for children and mental health programs.
Dr Muzaffar Jawad Ahmed, a researcher and teacher at the Centre for Psychological Studies and Educational Research in Baghdad, said that “the aggressive behaviour of children depends on two factors: one is the influential genetic, and the second is environmental. And this effect varies according to the social status of children. A child since the age of two tries to imitate others in their behaviour and starts with the family members, school, street, and so on.”
Dr Ahmed pointed out that “different degrees of violence in children and the reason is that every child has energy which may be discharged through sports, play, violence, aggressive behaviour and often against the younger.”
He adds “our society is encouraging violence. The father tells his son when he goes to school: if someone hits you, try to hit back, but he does not inform him on the proper methods to resort to the school administration.”
He adds that “the political systems of Iraq embarked on the militarization of society. A child every Thursday used to watch the flag raising ceremony and the launch of bullets for the flag, but he does not know the meaning of the flag, the national sentiment. He knows only what the rifle means.”
He points out that “the violation of the child’s dignity, insulting physical and psychological contempt make him resort to violence when they cannot react to the insult, therefore, you see children use force with the younger.”
He adds “the violence faced by the majority of children is a result of immediate trauma. When an explosion occurs, or when one of their parents is killed, the child loses his consciousness, collapses, gets nervous or immediate hysteria at the same time.”
He points out that “the disorder begins to appear after the shock, ranging from two weeks to six months of the trauma in a form of sleep disturbance, depression, nightmares and self inward, will have greater effect than the immediate shock.”
He emphasises that the Centre of Psychological Research and Educational Studies has the tools and rehabilitation techniques known worldwide for the treatment of mental disorders and a laboratory in which people with mental disorders can be rehabilitated through the images of virtual reality. The treatment extends from one month to six months, according to the situation.
It is worth to note that the human in general can deal with all types of diseases without shame except two diseases, sexual dysfunction and mental illness. In addition to that a lot of parents do not accept the idea that their children may be living with disorder or self deviation.
Note: The original article by Maryam Mohammed Jaafar was submitted in Arabic. The translation was provided by the late Kamel Shiaa’s family, who was directly involved in the selection and translation of the articles in competition for the prize.
Below is the full Q&A with EJC editor Howard Hudson, which fed their report entitled: ‘European Journalism Centre’s Ethics Code to Include Bloggers, All of Europe’.
Will the code still be not enforceable, but rather as a guide for journalists (and bloggers)?
HH: The code is not designed to be enforced top-down. It’s created by journalists for journalists and remains a guide for training and editorial decision-making. We’ve now produced a joint code with two axes: one linking old and new media, and the other linking journalists in Britain, France, Germany, Italy or Spain. This should bring more clarity on how to work ethically and provide a larger solidarity network. In time, it could evolve into something more, encompassing formal protections at European level—but that depends on political will and if enough journalists and bloggers want to sign up. I go into this in more detail below.
In incorporating more European countries, what struggles have you and the other creators of the code encountered? Any inconsistencies in journalism ethics standards (not just governmental censorship) cross-countries?
HH: It’s more that some codes present elements not seen elsewhere, for example in the code of conduct of the International Federation of Journalists. In Italy, one priority is not to identify police and legal teams working on mafia trials. As organised crime is a global phenomenon, that principle could be vital elsewhere. In Germany, one aspect is not to report medical research in a sensationalist way, as it may give false hope to vulnerable readers. Again, I think that could be relevant to other countries. In Spain, journalists are asked to defend ‘free access to public archives and administrative registers’. This needs clarification, so we would welcome a case study from a Spanish journalist.
Have you and the EJC had any support from outside organizations/journalists in creating the code?
HH: We should thank the University of Tampere in Finland, which produced the English translations of the various codes and which hosts the EthicNet website.
I’ve also heard from individual journalists. One in Brussels said we are ‘on to a great thing’ but that his main priority is to stay afloat. One in London questioned whether the market was ‘too open for a set code’ (for us, this is a major reason for the code: to cover and bring together journalists and bloggers from different backgrounds). But he agreed that changes in the industry are blurring the formal lines of journalism, and that some bloggers can ‘justifiably be considered part of the journalistic firmament’.
The IFJ has also produced several texts, including those listed on the Ethical Journalism Initiative website. These are all helpful, but our code adds value because: i) it’s a single reference point for busy journalists and aspiring bloggers; ii) it’s produced in a collaborative, bottom-up fashion; iii) it aims to reconcile old and new media; iv) it bridges gaps between journalism codes in five EU countries (with an open door for more); v) its ultimate goal is to secure protections and privileges at EU level for ‘ethical’ journalists and bloggers. This is already the case in Canada—so long as they can prove due diligence. I believe these protections would be easier to claim if there were a single agreed reference point, to which journalists or bloggers could appeal.
Any update on timeline for code’s implementation?
HH: It’s based on existing codes, so it can already be used by journalists, editors and bloggers in Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. We think it should be extended to include other national codes – particularly in Eastern Europe. It should also be updated, perhaps every five years, to reflect changes in the media landscape.
Also I think it’s important to work on something concrete – not just another code of ethics but something that covers journalists and bloggers working in different countries, and which could lead to greater protections for all of us. The alternative is to carry on going round in circles: insulting each other, having ‘spirited debates’, but ultimately arriving at ‘no firm conclusions’.
I read the Parliament’s resolution. Is it enforceable? Can they require a code to be established if you - or some other organization - doesn’t?
HH: The resolution is a large text about journalism and new media in Europe, of which ethics is just one aspect. By now it should have been sent to the EU Council and Commission. This will be a long process, which may even lose the ethical perspective unless a media organisation adds focus and impetus. To see how we can take this forward, I’m now in touch with the ‘Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe’, the European Parliament group of the resolution’s author Morten Løkkegaard.
One further option would be to link our code of ethics to wider press freedom goals (which I argue for in this article). We could lobby governments to make the ‘European Charter on Press Freedom’ legally binding in exchange for journalists and bloggers committing to a ‘European Code of Media Coverage Ethics’.
Is this going too far? I don’t think so, but I would welcome the opinions of media legal experts. Should there be a quid pro quo? Why not? I think we can have it both ways if we if seek formal, international protections in return for adhering to a code of ethics. Right now, it’s the ‘media predators’ – in Italy for instance – who have it both ways. That’s bad for journalists and for wider society.
Still, the code should never be a straightjacket for journalists, rather a guide or back-up in case of legal challenges. The last thing I want is to encourage self-censorship. Nor do I want to undermine the profession. I agree with Jeff Jarvis, in his preface to the book Supermedia: Saving Journalism So It Can Save the World: “No one says that amateurs will or should replace professional journalists… Professional and amateur, journalist and citizen may now work together to gather and share more news in more ways to more people than was ever possible before… We can do more together than we can apart.”
Right now there is political will in the EU for both stronger press freedom protections and a code of ethics for new media, so now’s the time to push for this. Self-regulation seems better than talking in circles or facing the prospect of regulation from above with nothing in return.
Filed under news.
The rescue of 33 miners trapped underground for more than two months in Chile has benefited from massive media coverage. It is not really that surprising; it was the first time in recent history that people have survived being trapped underground for so long.
Setting a record for mine-related disasters obviously contributed to making this event so special, but the rescue operation was also unique. From the technology used, to the video feed from inside the mine, everything was new. The story attracted 2,000 journalists to the site of the disaster. There was nothing about the development of this exceptional event that anyone could have predicted.
As Chilean Mining Minister Laurence Golborne said: “If this story was a movie, no one would have believed that this story would have happened as it has now”. All of these elements contributed to leading people from everywhere in the world to follow the event.
A global fairytale
The BBC, which sent 26 journalists to the San Jose mine, has been accused of overkill by other media. At certain moments their broadcast was similar to a reality show, showing the story and the picture of each miner, videos and the map of the mine. These images played an important role in appealing to the audience. The ability to view pictures and videos of the trapped miners made the story more real, touching people even deeper. They permitted the outside world to actually see that the men were alive.
But it is more than that, this is one of those stories people love to read, because it makes them dream, it is about heroism and the hope of a happy ending. We all want to read a moving story at least once in a while, and it is best when it makes us reflect on our own state of existence, the meaning of life and destiny. This was more than a reality show: it was dressed up as a fairy tale.
All of the necessary elements were there: a hopeless start, the point when everybody was ready to give up, the hope emanating like a ray of sunlight after a storm with the message “We are all well here in the refuge – the 33”, the technicians studying a way to drill a hole large enough to rescue the 33 miners, and the construction of a capsule adapted to this extreme situation – the miners were about 630 metres underground. The capsule itself became a character of this fairy tale, one of the heroes. It was even baptised - Phoenix- like the mythological bird rising from its ashes. Nobody can deny though that this truly was an extraordinary rescue operation.
People from all over the world were able to follow the rescue in all of its phases and to see the growth of Camp Hope, the installation of tents which extended as journalists and technicians kept on arriving. The cameras followed the capsule entering the mine, filming the rescue live.
Thanks to Twitter, people were able to comment on the rescue effort and share their thoughts. Tweets from the audience were published on news websites, demonstrating how many people were following intently and how deeply they were empathising with the miners. This must have generated a common sense amongst those who were following the event all over the world that they were part of a group, feeling and sharing the same emotions.
Through this Twitter proved itself, once more, to be a near immediate way to follow news as it unravels. For example, the BBC tweeted a list of correspondents in Chile and politicians tweeting on the story. Various other media shared large amounts of information via their websites, from opinion articles to a plan of the drilling, to pictures and the life stories of each miner.
Several media covered the rescue live. Filming civilians and broadcasting the video to millions of people around the world was however criticised as being intrusive. The miners were filmed in an intimate moment, when they met their families for the first time after spending more than two months deep underground. But we tend to forget this aspect when the cameras are rolling and our attention is gripped.
Chilean President Sebastián Piñera has been accused of using the situation to gain popular support. Nonetheless, after the devastating earthquake that struck Chile last February, perhaps the country needed a ‘national success to feel reunited’. The saturated media coverage transformed the event in an internationally-known success, worth the national pride. The media also gave a large-scale visibility to the President, in a sense granting him custody of the accomplishment in front of his fellow citizens and the international audience. Televisions, local and internationals, helped him gain a rise in popularity, giving him voice and visibility. This was a perfect opportunity, politically speaking, for him to appear close to the workers, to their families, all united under the Chilean flag.
As Rosental Alves, a professor of journalism at the University of Texas, told CNN: “Somehow the Chile authorities understood how to make it so emotional and appealing”. And with around one billion people having watched the rescue live on television, we can certainly call it a ‘media success’.