Fireworks and Fizzle

fireworks2July 4th skies were alight with fireworks, and the country celebrated Independence Day. After the flash there was not much left behind but fizzle on millions of phone screens. On the ground,  the sanitation crews were left to clean up the burnt cardboard housing from the after-flares.

The morning news reported that some governors miraculously found a way to sign state budgets and thereby rescued thousands of employees from the brink of a summer without pay. All of this was done behind closed doors and hurriedly, at the 13th hour, so as to “make the deal” in time for the new budget year.

What seems like a long, long time ago there was a process, a paper trail of sorts, and there was an order to ensure government transparency. But now it is all flash and showmanship; taunt and glitter. Our president claims to go directly to the people with twitter, but it is no more direct than any other media platform — staged and sloppy all at once — so as to cut out the process of organized thinking and action.

I wonder, however, if the president, and others who use social media, understand that all those finger taps are records, too. The flash and fizzle recorded as photographs on our phones are records that can be called into court, or at least captured by the systems in place.

Records come in so many forms now, and the growing need for archivists cannot possibly keep up with the avalanche of records creators now populating the media platforms.


End Game if Everything is Fake News?



Do those among the current crop of politicos ever study history enough to look at what the world is like without a fourth estate? Or are they too busy playing games with their twitter feeds and polling results to notice what happens when the only voices anyone listens to are the ones most like the one within their own heads?

Lynching the messenger with ad hominem doesn’t make the message false. It just means those who might have heard the message in time to learn the truth are going to wonder why you disrespected their intelligence so much you couldn’t trust them with the truth in the first place.

Public Notice: Antidote to Fake News

img_5094Politicians have always understood that public notice is the enemy of falsehood. The relentless march against its implementation has never been so unrelenting as in New Jersey.

A case in point was so noted recently in a column mention in the December 19 New York Times when Jim Rutenberg reported that my former employer The Star-Ledger was once again doing battle with the state’s governor who was fast-tracking a bill to end legal notice in print newspapers.

The paper’s editors claimed the bill’s intent was to “defang the watchdogs who expose their (governments) bad behavior.” Chris Christie, the governor of said state, and most recent object of some national scrutiny, probably would like a little less exposure.

Public notice is the first, best guard the representative democracy has against fake news, bad or good facts, bad or good governance. It seems like we are just now getting around to the basic sense the founding framers built into our framing documents and our first session of our first congress.

Hasn’t It Always Been ‘Reader Beware?’

img_1586The recent release of a study by Stanford University researchers on the understanding that young readers might have about the kinds of sources of information they see online seems troubling in light of the recent wake of “fake news” during the U.S. presidential election season. It shouldn’t. Same story, different format, both for the “fake news” and for the young readers.

Media watchers have been decrying the poor comprehension of news since mass media began, hence the many concerns expressed by the founding framers of the Declaration of Independence, the Federation, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Public Notice was one way for the public to be aware of what government was doing — straight up and without interpretation, if the intention of the law was followed. It separated fact from “news” so that we could interpret facts to gather our own news from it.

Yes, there are actual facts to be gathered when preparing the news reports of the day.  As we seem to learn afresh almost by the moment now, news has many versions.The major news organizations, like the Washington Post, have reported the most recent fake news episode and reflections with the equanimity of professionals.

If Mark Zuckerberg had remained in school a bit longer he might have come across some of the astounding live experiments that many governments did during the early part of the previous century during world wars with effective covert propaganda in news reports. It was not rocket science, but one working theory was even referred to as a bullet.

Mass media has no or very little effect?  Don’t tell the advertisers! They are paying big bucks because they believe differently. Just a note, Public Notice is placed in advertising boxes for a reason, as well.

As for elections and wars, and facts and news, and public opinion…check again in the history reports. One need not even flip back through many pages, screens or views to see evidence of mass media effects.

Or just go to the movies. Let Orson Wells demonstrate how it works in Citizen Kane. There are dozens of movies that make the point.

FBI Got Zero at a Cost of $1.3 M?

imgresThe FBI noted recently that it paid more than $1 million to hack the security system on an IPhone, as reported by Reuters, but that nothing of significance it sought was found there.  Whether to believe the report of the cost, and that nothing of significance toward its investigation was found are both doubtful, but that’s just me being me, perhaps, on a Friday.

A passcode worth more than a $1 million is something else to know.  My phone just got a whole lot more valuable to me. Thanks!

Right To Be Forgotten Amid Cacophony

Archive and record preservationists work diligently at making sure history is accurately undisturbed, but Google received yet another lesson from the French recently about how disturbing unfettered access to the past can be.

Once again the French court is insisting on enforcement of the “right to be forgotten” tenet in European privacy law and that it be applied globally, and issued fines for noncompliance. NYTimes Story

How ironic when so many people are clamoring for the attention of followers and likes that there are those who want to be forgotten, or at least some aspect of their former selves.

Ah, if we could all erase those embarrassing 2nd grade photographs and 8-year-old recital moments from everyone’s family memories. How about the teenage arrests for loud parties or drunken behavior, or how about horrific treatment of former spouses or elderly neighbors.  Why maintain accountability at all?  We’ve all been above average since birth. No growth or change required!