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Around a week ago news started spreading that YouTube, the popular internet video site, changed their algorithm that decides which videos get recommended to viewers. It used to be that keywords in the title, views, and similar subscribers are what got a video recommended. What that means is if you subscribe to cute dog channels and watch a lot of cute dog videos, then cute dog channels that you don’t subscribe to but other cute dog fanatics do would get recommended to you. Also, cute dog videos that you haven’t watched that had a lot of views would get recommended to you. Under this system, new channels had a good shot at growing if they uploaded frequent good content. YouTube has changed this algorithm, and now instead of views, keywords and subscribers, recommended videos are based on likes and comments. This means that the only cute dog videos you will be seeing as recommended are the cute dog videos with a lot of likes and comments, and not necessarily the best cute dog content.

Now, this may not seem like a big deal on a surface level, in fact, it may seem to even make sense. Naturally, wouldn’t the best content get the most likes and comments? Big channels will continue to prosper, and new channels will continue to grow, and bad content won’t get recommended because it won’t get any likes. In a perfect world, yes. But that’s just not how these things work. The fact of the matter is people just don’t take the time to like and comment on videos. A majority of people, myself included, do not like or comment on a video unless it was a truly remarkable video or they have something actually worth commenting. This new algorithm is punishing YouTubers for not asking for likes or giving stuff away to get likes. It’s punishing growing channels for not having enough viewers let alone getting that small amount of viewership to like and/or comment on their videos. Many YouTubers are getting around 40% less views since this change and, to make matters worse, they are losing subscribers every time they upload a video. Some say this is a glitch, but others are starting to say that YouTube is automatically unsubscribing people from channels if they haven’t watched their videos in a while. This is very bad news because, believe it or not, this is how these people make money. Making YouTube videos is their job. Imagine your boss came to you, the top salesman in the company, and told you that you were going to lose 40 percent of your commission because your clients weren’t sending reports of how you handled business. Now imagine your entire paycheck is commission. That’s what is happening to these major YouTubers. And as for the small/growing channels, they will not be able to grow because they simply don’t have enough subscribers to the extent that even if every subscriber commented and liked their videos, it still wouldn’t be enough to get the video recommended to non-subscribers.

It’s sad to see such an incredible website with such incredible content shoot itself in the foot. It’s sad to see these people terrified that their livelihood is being destroyed. It’s sad on a personal note, that were I to ever start making videos, they would never be viewed unless I asked individual people to like and share it. It’s sad that the only people talking about this are the people being directly affected, and there is no news coverage. It’s just a sad time for the entire YouTube community.

 

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Civic Engagement and News Intake

Pew Research Center, in association with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, recently conducted a study in which they tested to see whether a citizen’s civic engagement and local news habits were linked. A broad overview of their results showed that, 1) Regular local voting and community attachment are strongly linked to news habits, 2) Participation in civic life and community rating show weaker ties to news habits, and 3) Perceived political diversity shows little relationship with local news habits. For the purpose of this blog post, I’m going to focus on the first two results, local voting and community attachment.

The first thing the participants had to answer was how attached they felt to their community. The results showed that only about 19% of U.S. adults feel highly attached to their communities, 47% feel somewhat attached and 33% feel little or no sense of attachment. The participants were then asked whether or not they follow the news closely, how many sources they use, and whether or not they think the local media are doing a good job. The responses showed that 59% of the highly attached said they closely follow the news compared to 29% for the unattached, 44% of the highly attached regularly used three or more sources for the news compared to 17% for the unattached, and 35% of the highly attached thought the local media was doing a good job compared to the unattached at 13%. There is a pretty clear link between community attachment and local news intake.

The next question the participants were asked was if they always voted or not and those answers were also compared to the same three areas of news intake. For those who said they always vote, 52% follow the news closely, 38% get their news from three or more sources and 27% think the local media are doing a good job. For those who said they don’t always vote, 31% follow the news closely, 25% get their news from three or more sources and 18% think the local media are doing a good job. Again there was a pretty sizable difference between those who are civically engaged and those who aren’t and their news intake.

So what does this mean? According to these results, those who are civically active and feel attached to their community, more often than not, pay close attention to the news and partake from more than one source. It’s also interesting to note that, according to the article itself, “The relationships we see between local news habits and these various aspects of civic engagement all hold up when controlling for age, as well as income and education.” No matter how old, wealthy, or educated you are, watching the news is important. It is our duty as citizens of this country to be engaged, to vote, and to help our communities. Perhaps if we’d pay more attention to the news, we’d find our voice as a people again.

Actual Article

The Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth

Ken Ward Jr.’s approach to journalism, at least what he said about it in the document we read, has put into words a feeling and ideology that I have not been able to explain. I think that if more journalists felt and practiced the way Ward does, the world would be a better place, and journalism would actually be an effective and respected profession. Ward said that most journalists are dishonest with the public when they say they are objective. And I say yes, that is it. That is the problem. Ward is 100 percent correct.

In my limited experience on this earth I have found one consistent thing about journalists, publications and networks and that is that there is practically no such thing as objective news reporting in America. Certainly some publications and networks are better than others, they actually try to be objective, but it seems like every story I read is just another journalist and/or publication or network trying to force-feed me their own political agenda or report on a sad story to try and win a prize. Ward, and I, accept that everyone has their own biases, and that alone is not necessarily a bad thing. It does, however, become a bad thing when those biases contradict the well being of others. In Wards example he listed his biases stating that he thinks everyone should have clean water and clean air, and every kid should have the chance at a good education, and everybody should be able to earn a living to take care of themselves and their families. Then he said,“Nobody ever really wanted to disagree with any of that. But they didn’t like how it manifested itself in stories,”And he wrapped up his input on the topic by saying that journalists need to focus less on storytelling and writing about people going through a hard time, and spend more time on writing about why they went through a hard time, why it happened to them, how their government let it happen, who did it to them, and what can be done about it.

Journalists Tom Rosenstiel and Bill Kovach wrote in their book The Elements of Journalism that “The primary purpose of journalism is to provide citizens with the information they need to be free and self-governing.” This is unfortunately just not the case anymore. Journalism has transformed into a never-ending stream of click-bait, sad stories and political agendas. That is not what it is supposed to be. I’m thankful for journalists and people in general like Ken Ward Jr. People who are willing to get the facts, make sense of them, and show them to us. People who are willing to expose corruption no matter the consequences or the backlash. People who are willing to report the truth.

The Melting Pot

Searcy, Arkansas is a unique place. Tucked away in the heart of the southern town is Harding University, a tiny little world of its own. In 1782 French-American writer Hector St. John de Crevecoeur wrote, “Here individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men, whose labors and posterity will one day cause changes in the world.” Crevecoeur was writing about America at the time, giving birth to the “melting pot” metaphor, and to be honest you can apply that quote seamlessly to Searcy or, more specifically, Harding. Currently at Harding there are students from 49 states and 44 countries all congregating on one 350 acre campus in the middle of Arkansas. For some, taking that type of smorgasbord of culture and race and plopping it down in the heart of the American south is a natural cause for concern. I mean, the south hasn’t exactly been known for its history of love and acceptance of all people. For others however, they couldn’t think of a better place than the Bible Belt for foreign people, or just people in general, to come and discover what true American love and acceptance is like. James Thompson, a 67-year-old Searcy resident, is one of those people.

“I think [Harding students] fit in very well,” Thompson said. “They are very polite and courteous. Besides, [Harding] is a Christian school in a Christian town in a dry county.”

I found this was a popular opinion as I continued talking to more people. Thompson was born in Arkansas but moved to Michigan as a young man to work for General Motors. However, he and his wife moved back to Searcy 14 years ago. When I asked why, Thompson said,

“We moved back because of the schools in White County. It’s one of the best areas around.”

This too was a reoccurring comment. In fact, everyone I talked to about these two topics had the same response. They (“obviously” as some put it) knew about Harding; they think Harding students are kind, respectful and fit in rather nicely. They think Searcy is one of the best, if not the best, areas around and the people are friendly and easy to get to know. So perhaps this miniature melting pot doesn’t contain a recipe for disaster after all. Perhaps, as Crevecoeur wrote, it is a pot full of men and women “…Whose labors and posterity will one day cause changes in the world.”

 

Invisible People

I watched the Invisible People Interview with Mike. It would appear to me the interviewer conducts these interviews to raise awareness about homelessness and give people a chance to not only hear what these “invisible people” have to say, but also to learn a little more about their personal story. Each one of these invisible people are unique and have a reason that they’re living on the streets, it isn’t just because they’re lazy or uneducated or addicted to something. Mike said,

“Nobody owes us anything out here dude, nobody put us out here on the streets we put ourselves out here. For one reason or another, maybe some of us like it I mean I like it, I like traveling around. But the point is nobody owes any of us anything.”

Later in the interview Mark stated,

“You can’t starve in America dude, if anybody says they’re starving to death they’re a liar and if anybody says they can’t make it, there’s plenty of generous people in America. But at the same time, there are a lot of ***holes out here too, there are a lot of people who just judge us without even talking to us.”

The interviewer wants to show that these people are just that, people. They are living and breathing and feeling humans with the same capacity to dream and aspire and be good people like everyone else.

“I hit the streets because I was trying to get out of a bad home, a bad area, a bad life…” Mike said, “I left home when I was 14, 15 years old, my dad was an alcoholic and its better being out here. At least out here somebody cared about me, I didn’t have to worry about ‘when’s my dad gonna be home’ and this and that, at least somebody was here for me out here.”

When the interview with Mike started the first thing he talked about was that the bag that had all of his dog’s toys, treats, and other supplies had been stolen. It was very evident Mike was upset about it as he talked about what happened and about his dog in general,

“When it deals with me I don’t care because I mean I can make it, I’m straight. But when people like, look at my dog that’s what hurts.”

Mike stopped talking at this point and there was a brief silence as a tear rolled down his face.

The interviewer seemed very respectful towards his interviewee and although I wouldn’t say he established a relationship per se, he definitely showed compassion and empathy toward Mike’s situation. Mike had a lot to say and the interviewer let him say it. He asked the occasional question, but 99% of the dialogue was Mike. And, when Mike was talking, the interviewer never made him stop or censored him or made him change topics. He definitely asked skewed questions in that they were about homelessness whether it is Mike’s personal situation or Mike’s opinion about it, but given the purpose of the interviewers YouTube channel, that makes complete sense and is in no way a bad thing.