Sophie Benjamin, engagement editor
“Facebook is a source of news for a majority of American adults, but in the vitriol and propaganda of the 2016 election, its proverbial public square for many users has devolved into a never-ending Thanksgiving-dinner debate — or an omnipresent Speakers’ Corner. As Lowder says his father put it, opining on social media is the equivalent of shouting off a soapbox in the street: a declaration, rather than discussion.
“This view, of course, cuts against the way Facebook views itself. “Friends and family come first” was said to be its guiding value in a shakeup of the news feed algorithm revealed in June.”
Cass Knowlton, editor
“‘This is not the apocalypse,’ Obama said. History does not move in straight lines; sometimes it goes sideways, sometimes it goes backward. A couple of days later, when I asked the President about that consolation, he offered this: ‘I don’t believe in apocalyptic — until the apocalypse comes. I think nothing is the end of the world until the end of the world.’
“Obama’s insistence on hope felt more willed than audacious. It spoke to the civic duty he felt to prevent despair not only among the young people in the West Wing but also among countless Americans across the country. At the White House, as elsewhere, dread and dejection were compounded by shock.”
Myriam Robin, media reporter
“At a time of continuing discussion over the role that hyperpartisan websites, fake news and social media play in the divided America of 2016, LibertyWritersNews illustrates how websites can use Facebook to tap into a surging ideology, quickly go from nothing to influencing millions of people and make big profits in the process. Six months ago, Wade and his business partner, Ben Goldman, were unemployed restaurant workers. Now they’re at the helm of a website that gained 300,000 Facebook followers in October alone and say they are making so much money that they feel uncomfortable talking about it because they don’t want people to start asking for loans.
Instead, Wade hums a hip-hop song and starts a new post as readers keep reading, sharing and sending in personal messages. One comes from a woman who frequently contacts his page. “YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE I TRUST TO REPORT THE TRUTH,” is one of the things she has written, and Wade doesn’t need to look at her Facebook profile to have a clear sense of who she is. White. Working class. Midwestern. “And the economy screwed her.”
Sally Whyte, journalist
“The final shift to a new world order happened while googling life expectancy and reading my chances of survival. If my life is nothing but a series of miracles from this point onwards, nothing will undo that moment. The change was immediate and irrevocable …
“You may think that to get lung cancer is just bad luck. And you’d be right. Except that lung cancer is the number one cancer killer in Australia. So that’s a fair bit of bad luck. More women die each year from lung cancer than from breast and ovarian cancer combined – the fastest growing subset is young women who have never smoked.”
Dan Wood, subeditor
“Ballarat in western Victoria became the location of an epidemic of clerical paedophilia. The dark tragedy affects thousands of lives to this day. It is widely acknowledged the Catholic Church protected its worst offenders and moved them on to prey on new unsuspecting communities. What is not understood is the Victoria Police Force also bears a grave responsibility for the betrayal of Ballarat’s children.”
Bernard Keane, politics editor
“Despite the pretensions of our more civilized age, modernity has not conquered the primal desires of the human male; it hasn’t even tamed them. It has, however, channeled them into a virtual sphere through media such as pornography and video games. That has lowered the cost of acting out these desires — but also muted their pleasures.
“This prompts the question of whether virtual reality will ever deliver an experience that feels exactly like the real thing. And if it does, what will be the effects on the human psyche and human idealism? The new HBO series Westworld explores these questions in suitably creepy fashion.”
Sophie Benjamin, engagement editor
“Herein lies the problem: many of us now live in ‘filter bubbles‘ wherein social media algorithms tend to feed us only those perspectives that we already agree with. Let’s assume, then, that all of us, including progressives, do need to broaden our horizons, and seek out more views that differ from ours.
“So what are the thoughtful sources where we can not only learn how the other half thinks, but maybe pick up something useful?”