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Big Revolution - Getting real when the news is fake

Welcome to Thursday's Big Revolution – thankfully, not brought to you from a waiting area at Gatwick
December 20 · Issue #298 · View online
Big Revolution
Welcome to Thursday’s Big Revolution – thankfully, not brought to you from a waiting area at Gatwick airport. And if you’re reading this there, my sympathies.

Big things you need to know today
  • Drones have repeatedly flown over Gatwick airport near London, grounding all flights for more than 12 hours at the time of writing. Police are certain it’s a deliberate act of disruption. It will cause huge problems around the world, as planes and crews will be in the wrong places for flights for days to come – just before Christmas.
  • Facebook data scandal of the day: “Android apps like Tinder, Grindr and Pregnancy+ are quietly transmitting sensitive user data to Facebook,” reports BuzzFeed News.
The big thought
Credit: Elijah O'Donnell on Unsplash
Getting real when the news is fake
When I worked as a full-time journalist, I wasn’t really the type to break big stories. That’s fine – I was happy being first to discover a great new startup, or to write an interesting profile on a notable figure.
I did break a few stories based solely on my own contacts and legwork though, and it was always a buzz. But it struck me how easy it would be to make things up. Given how many big scoops involve anonymous sources, it would be possible to make up all kinds of sensational things, pull in the traffic and then write about the official denials of your stories too.
To be clear, I don’t know anyone who has ever done this, but the fact it’s possible (at least in the short term – you’d likely get found out pretty quickly) demonstrates how important trust in journalism is. And if someone is caught fabricating stories (the greatest crime in journalism), it’s essential that the publication concerned makes regaining reader trust its number one priority.
That’s why I was happy to see how big a deal Germany’s Der Spiegel was making about one of its most popular journalists making up interviews and events in his articles. The magazine has published a lengthy article detailing the fraud.
This is absolutely the right thing to do. At a time when journalists’ credibility is routinely called into question by critics acting in bad faith, burying genuine examples of deceit would only make matters worse in the long run.
You can read a short English language Q&A about the events in question here. By owning up to the issue, and explaining what it’s doing in response, Der Spiegel shows it’s a responsible publisher with respect for its readers. Bravo.
One big read
Dirty dealing in the $175 billion Amazon Marketplace Dirty dealing in the $175 billion Amazon Marketplace
How Amazon sellers play dirty against each other
“A rival had framed Plansky for buying five-star reviews, a high crime in the world of Amazon. The funds in his account were immediately frozen, and his listings were shut down. Getting his store back would take him on a surreal weeks-long journey through Amazon’s bureaucracy, one that began with the click of a button at the bottom of his suspension message that read “appeal decision.””
One big tweet
Call it a stunt if you like, but Facebook better hope this doesn’t become a trend.
We've decided to become a Facebook-Free Business at @basecamp starting today. No Facebook, Instagram, no WhatsApp. No ads. No profiles. No pages. No usage. No more. Run your own business? Consider joining up.
10:09 PM - 19 Dec 2018
That’s all for today...
Back tomorrow. See you then!
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