Voices

Clinton’s Algorithm, and 4 Other Stories You Should Read

Here’s what you missed while you were sifting through your post-Tuesday Facebook feeds

The Ringer: We Knew Nothing

Selected by Craig Davis, editorial intern

Tuesday night was emotionally turbulent for the American people, to put it lightly. Some were happy, others outraged; personally, I’m still hoping I wake up from this dream by Monday, because sometimes I handle things I don’t like in immature ways.

In the media, however, one reaction reigned supreme: How the hell did we get this so wrong?

The Ringer’s Bryan Curtis examines this question, noting the irony of wildly flawed projections at a time when more information is available than ever before. The increasingly scientific nature of journalism can lead consumers to view themselves as all-knowing experts. But really, the proliferation of material shouldn’t be mistaken for true knowledge; even well reported content can be, as Trump would say, wrong.

“Data journalism allows readers to imagine that they possess infallible truth,” writes Curtis. “But as 2016 proved, data journalists are as fallible as anyone else.”

BuzzFeed: 18 Totally Real Conversations Obama and Biden Have Had Since The Election

Selected by Joe Lazauskas, editor-in-chief

This has been one of the toughest weeks ever. I thought of picking a number of different stories: One on how Facebook created an echo chamber that isolated our country in two. Or perhaps one on the dangers of Trump’s animosity towards the press, and the potential that we’ll see the First Amendment come under vicious attack.

But chances are, you need a break. I need a break. And this made me feel a bit better—if just for a few moments.

The Ringer: This Is How Facebook Defines “Journalism”

Selected by Brian Maehl, talent development manager

Facebook’s influence on news consumption and facilitation of fake political stories is under fire. Regardless of candidate preference, basing political opinions on misinformation is dangerous. And yet, Facebook has so far showed little interest in identifying itself as a media company, and therefore has avoided the editorial discretion and responsibility that would follow.

Kate Knibbs of The Ringer dives into this problem through the lens of a recent, Facebook-produced course for journalists. The course doesn’t cover the ethics of journalism, but rather focuses on the increasing importance of video content and Instant Articles. It’s no coincidence their view of teaching “journalism” is really promoting the tools for engagement that benefit their platform best.

As Knibbs writes, “It wants to be the stadium, not the umpire.”

The Washington Post: Clinton’s data-driven campaign relied heavily on an algorithm named Ada. What didn’t she see?

Selected by Dillon Baker, associate editor

Most people know that basically every model got Tuesday’s election spectacularly wrong. It was a serious rebuke to data models, and a lesson that data is not magical. And as if to add insult to injury, this Washington Post article shows that data models not only got the election wrong—they’re partly what led to the incredible loss in the first place.

Clinton’s campaign team relied on an algorithm called Ada, which they meant to reveal as the “secret sauce” behind her campaign once she won the presidency. Instead, Ada is being revealed as a fatal error in judgement—an algorithm filled with bad data that misled the campaign into ignoring the Rust Belt states that delivered Trump the presidency. In a campaign that, with hindsight, misread the country in multiple ways, the campaign’s blind trust in an algorithm may be its most egregious mistake.

It’s also a lesson for marketers who see data as a cure-all, rather than as a supplement to creativity, reading the market, and actually talking to customers.

Image by Creative Commons
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