Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The spread of mis-information and realities of live-covering events {braindump}

(Just a note to remind you that I’m posting as me, not officially KPCC.)

{Edit, adding in some stuff from Alex Cohen’s interview with RTNA rep Royal Oaks}

It has been a whirlwind of a week here.

Last night, Occupy LA was raided and cleared out by the Los Angeles Police Department. To cover it, we continued a live blog we started Monday as well as live-tweeted. 

I want to jot down my thought on two things. One more nerdy than the other.

Media pools and the spread of mis-information

Somewhere around 5:30 p.m. I sent an e-mail to our radio and print staffs about a LAPD briefing that would happen at 7:15 p.m. The alert went out via Nixle, a notification service LAPD uses for crimes and media events. It was picked up on Twitter quickly.

This was the first tweet I saw, which is a good summary of the text we got. 

Jazmin_Ortega: #LAPD meeting to do lottery to select “pool media” for future #OccupyLA activity. Interested media in pool must have rep attend mtg @ 7:15pm 

A note: you needed to be credentialed with the LAPD to be considered. 

We sent three people to the event, both from web and radio side. In that meeting, the reporters and LAPD agreed to three pools of four people, each pool would have a radio, print, TV and photo/video representative. The general rule was (which I don’t believe is uncommon with pools) that you can’t do any of your own reporting until you file to the pool.

A good explanation from Alexis Madrigal’s Atlantic article

The POOL consisted of our our editors, editors of other print publications, and a central news service that anyone else (tv, radio, more print) could read,” Smith told me. “Once we filed to the POOL… that info could go live anywhere. The premise was that we just couldn’t be greedy and publish information from inside the park directly to our own site without first sharing with the POOL so everyone could have it at the same time.

An RTNA rep told us in an interview today that originally, LAPD only wanted one pool and media negotiated to three.

"There was a negotiated resolution to the question of a need for a pool and the extent of a pool," he said.

One of the first articles that went up on this was from the LA Weekly. Then there was this post, from an Occupy LA blogger. (In retrospect, maybe we should have written a story on this right away.)

Here’s what bothers me. Immediately, this was reported as censorship. Depends on how you look at it. Should they have set up a pool to cover a public event? Not sure. Do you normally need police permission to go beyond police lines at an event? Yes. (Think of crime scenes here) 

That was still not clear to Oaks. He sad he wasn’t clear that press had “unfettered access to the entire area.”

I asked SPJ-LA yesterday if they were concerned with what had happened. They said discussions had taken place, but no official stance.

Oaks, again from our interview, said that LAPD may trying to avoid a repeat of events in 2007 that resulted in a lawsuit against them when reporters got hurt covering a protest.

Press were certainly allowed in the park as police raided, but if they failed to listen to police, they would be subject to arrest. 

Grant Slater was our videographer on the ground, was not arrested. Some of his thoughts, summed up from tweets.

"I watched the pool come and go from the epicenter, whisked on by as i remained. eventually, though, i was led out by the arm." he tweeted "seemed for a moment that i had better access than pool who were being ferried around."

But what I saw on Twitter was far from what Grant said happened. I saw fevered claims fueled by the mis-information that pool press was censored, not allowed to tweet or say anything until the raid was over. As far as I know, no one from our team was told explicitly that they could not tweet.

Frank Stoltze, our guy in the pool, tweeted the whole night.

We wrote about this at our liveblog. I tweeted under our official live handle AND my own in an effort to get the incorrect information changed or correct information spread. It was beyond difficult to get that to stick.

In an age where social media rules, what role do we, as media, have to correct the quick and virulent spread of social media? Is it worth pursuing?

The realities of live….covering

Now the nerdy part.

We covered the move by LAPD in two dynamically new ways for us: A Scribble liveblog (a tool we’ve never used before) and livetweeting from a brand new account.

Some stats on the tweeting part that I sent out last night.

We gained 414 followers in less than three days on KPCCLive
We tweeted 560 times
We made 15 lists
We were Retweeted 437 times and @ mentioned 698 times
We possibly reached 2.81 million people

The most difficult part of what we did last night is in the same vein of what I said above. In an effort to be completely transparent and verify as much as we could, I made a decision

I would not RT something that appeared to be a first-person account that was not. There were a lot of people watching livestreams, then tweeting and it was hard to tell who was there. So over time, I built a private list with people who told me, and proved to me that they were actually at the camp. 

I did RT some things from second- and third-person sources, if it was decently clear that it was a RT of a first-person account or a note or press release.

If you look through KPCCLive’s feed you’ll see a lot of me @ messaging people “Were you there? Where was this? Do you have a photo?” I wanted to make sure people know I was trying to verify, so no DMs unless it was sensitive.

If I came across something I found compelling, but could not get confirmation, I old-school RTed with a question (not unlike Andy Carvin’s style).

It was hard to do this on a brand new account. Unlike Andy, I had not spent significant time building up Occupy sources. I probably missed things and good accounts. Next time, we’ll start building that list early if we anticipate live-tweeting something,

On the liveblog, we took in tweets and other info and tried to build it out more with context. We used Campfire to pass info between the team working on the liveblog (thought sometimes I was tweeting and blogging) and myself or who was watching the account.

We came across interesting issues. 

I considered it a service to embed and link to livestreams within the camp. But many were from protestors or activists. There were things said that were biased. Should we promote that? Is it like a RT? Does out audience know the difference?

I talk and write a lot about trusting the audience, so it’s a bit easy to guess my stance on this. But it’s a good point to think over. At what point is something that, regardless of the service, too biased to link to? How do you show your audience that it’s NOT you? There were certainly points where I cringed at what the livestreamers were saying.

I’ll try to build out my thoughts more on both of these topics. But if you have questions or things you think we should ponder, give me a shout.


  1. bui posted this