November 18, 2016 Last Updated 8:37 am

NYT covers the chatbot problem, albeit a month too late; Alexa can soon text through AT&T

Morning Brief: As the new administration ramps up its team, one wonders if the media truly is prepared for what comes next, whether its normal way of covering politics will work in a repressive environment

The second weekend following the election is upon us and the news coming out of Trump Tower is that the cabinet is being set, with Sen. Jeff Sessions to be named Attorney General, retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn as national security adviser, and Rep. Mike Pompeo for CIA director. The choices are extreme, but consistent with the positions on issues the president-elect took during the campaign – in other words, those who said you couldn’t take the candidate literally, didn’t mean it literally.



The New York Times, editorial:

Donald Trump’s Plan to Purge the Nation

signIt took the Obama administration eight years to deport 2.5 million immigrants. The threat of Mr. Trump chasing that number right off the bat is the reason immigrant communities are so terrified. But the damage won’t be immediate: He can’t just load two million people onto buses and planes and ship them out. He’ll first have to stuff them into the bottleneck of the immigration courts, where there are too few judges and lawyers for a swollen caseload, and fill detention cells to bursting. Mr. Trump may be unaware of due process, or in denial about it, but it exists.

All the while he would be snatching workers from their jobs, workers who keep the economy humming. Then there is the policing problem — indiscriminate roundups in immigrant communities cause crime victims to fear and avoid the police, and crime to fester.



This story below may sound like a repeat of the news TNM wrote a month ago… and it is. Incredibly, the NYT has finally decided to write about the studies being concluded by Bence Kollanyi of Corvinus University, Philip Howard of Oxford University, and Samuel C. Woolley of the University of Washington, a full month too late.

Things like this are why I have my doubts about the NYT’s news instincts. This story was out there, it was good scientific research, but only now, after the election, does the paper decide to write about it. Worse, they make it sound like the research was only released on Thursday. No, they have been writing papers about this for quite a while. But I suppose better late than never. (Let me take that back, it is too late, they blew this one.)

The New York Times, John Markoff:

Automated Pro-Trump Bots Overwhelmed Pro-Clinton Messages, Researchers Say

bot-typingAn automated army of pro-Donald J. Trump chatbots overwhelmed similar programs supporting Hillary Clinton five to one in the days leading up to the presidential election, according to a report published Thursday by researchers at Oxford University.

The chatbots — basic software programs with a bit of artificial intelligence and rudimentary communication skills — would send messages on Twitter based on a topic, usually defined on the social network by a word preceded by a hashtag symbol, like #Clinton.

Their purpose: to rant, confuse people on facts, or simply muddy discussions, said Philip N. Howard, a sociologist at the Oxford Internet Institute and one of the authors of the report. If you were looking for a real debate of the issues, you weren’t going to find it with a chatbot.

“They’re yelling fools,” Dr. Howard said. “And a lot of what they pass around is false news.”



More research, this time from the Pew Research Center. I think the findings here will be over-interpreted. The finds are that a majority of Trump supporters just want the media to present the fact, free from any interpretation, while Clinton supporters are evenly split on the subject. But Trump supporters have been made all fall about the tendency of the major media to call out their candidate when he says two and two equals five – they don’t want to hear it. So, of course, they want the media only to report “the facts” – but if “the facts” contradict what their man said, they would say that is interpretation. Or, at least, that is my take. Which is, of course, me interpreting the findings. See, Joshua, there is no way to win at this game.

Pew Research Center, Michael Barthel and Jeffrey Gottfried:

Majority of U.S. adults think news media should not add interpretation to the facts

A majority of U.S. adults (59%) reject the idea of adding interpretation, saying that the news media should present the facts alone, a recent Pew Research Center survey found. Four-in-ten U.S. adults favor adding some interpretation to the facts. The survey of 4,132 adults on the Center’s nationally representative American Trends Panel was conducted Sept. 27-Oct. 10, before Election Day.

Although the public prefers the news media to present “just the facts,” they may not even agree on what the facts are. In the same survey, 81% of registered voters said that most supporters of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump not only disagree over plans and policies, but also disagree on basic facts.



When I joined McGraw-Hill from the newspaper industry, the company was still very much a publisher, owning both a major book division, but its publications for construction and aviation. And, of course, it owned BusinessWeek. But in the five plus years I was there one could see that the company was moving in another direction, it wanted to be a financial information company, not a publisher. So, eventually, the publications were sold off, with BusinessWeek being bought by Bloomberg.

As a weekly, BusinessWeek has the same problems other weeklies have – they publish too frequently in print, because the competition publishes more frequently digitally. James Warren may be right here, the magazine may be shuttered soon. But for 2017, we will see some changes, and if the magazine can trim its losses there is no reason it can’t continue, serving not as a profit center, but as part of Bloomberg’s marketing of its terminals.

Poynter, James Warren:

Editor’s dismissal may signal ultimate demise of Businessweekbbusweek-front-300Even one of the world’s richest men can get tired of losing money.

That is very much the reality behind the abrupt dismissal of Ellen Pollock as editor of Bloomberg Buinsessweek magazine and her replacement by Megan Murphy, the Bloomberg Washington bureau chief, according to two well-informed sources who declined to be identified….

…”We are convinced that we can embark on an exciting new phase in BBW’s storied 87 year old history—by transforming both its editorial mission and its business model,” wrote Smith and Micklethwait to staff. “We hope to do that not just in print, but on the web, in a daily App and through live events.”

In fact, it’s likely the death knell for the publication. Yes, it will be back, with the frequency reduced. That’s often a losing gambit and a precursor to a final obituary. Even before the change in frequency, much of its staff will be reassigned to the main newsroom, according to two sources.



I recently came within seconds of buying an Amazon Echo when in need of a higher quality Bluetooth speaker. I went, instead, with the Libratone Zipp, which has proved to be a very good speaker. But the app is buggy, so there is no doubt that I will likely one day choose to but the Echo – and the reason is that it just keeps adding features that I would find useful. This would be one of them.

TechCrunch, Brian Heater:

Alexa will soon be able to send text messages through AT&T

On November 19, Alexa will get the Send Message skill, allowing AT&T subscribers to text one of ten predetermined contacts using their voice.

The skill works pretty much as you’d expect. Ask Alexa to text a friend on your contacts list and she’ll prompt you to speak the message, freeing you up to wash the dishes, your plants, play the glockenspiel and whatever it is people do with their hands while not sending a text. There’s not really a heck of a lot more to it than that, really.

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