The emergence of social media broadcast has continued to raise concerns about professionalism in broadcasting, a development that may be eroding trust and quality of conventional broadcasting, writes Emma Okonji
Evolution of social media is currently affecting the quality, authenticity, originality and trust of conventional broadcasting, which several audiences used to hold with a high esteem. Before the emergence of social media like Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Twitter among others, different audiences relied on the conventional broadcast from electronic media like the television and radio, as well as the print media like newspapers and magazines for their daily news. With conventional media, broadcasting and news reporting were held with trust and most people believed every information that was released via television, radio, newspapers and magazines as the gospel truth. With conventional media, journalists who source for news items and make such available to the public, were trained and respected. But with the emergence of social media broadcast, a lot of news broadcasters, who are not trained for news reporting and broadcasting, find themselves disseminating information that are not verified. They have turned themselves into news broadcasters and they are practicing citizen journalism, simply because they have smartphones with internet connectivity. In most cases, the type of information that is disseminated via social media is conflicting with the authentic information and this creates room for doubt, a development that has eroded trust from the audience who are in continuous search of various forms of news items.
Worried by this development, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and the Yemi Sonde Biennial Broadcast Media Stakeholders’ Forum, held the 6th edition of its forum in Ibadan, Oyo State last week.
The forum with the theme: Social Media Evolution And Conventional Broadcasting, The Nigeria Perspective, discussed the challenges of professionalism in broadcasting,.
Participants at the forum raised the issue of professionalism in broadcasting and the need for social media to verify information as true before broadcast. According to them, the forum has become a platform to address national issues as they affect broadcasting.
They were of the view that such gathering should be extended to other parts of Nigeria, so that Nigerians could have more opportunities to examine the issues that condition, influence or arise from the broadcasting culture of our country.
“The truth is that we are part of an increasingly interdependent world, and the knowledge out there can be very useful to assist our apprehension of our own reality. Just as much as the convergence of new and traditional forms of media has become a major context of the various contradictions of contemporary broadcasting, including that of Nigeria, it is therefore germane that the forum is expanded to enable Nigerians from al, walks of life, discuss the issue of professionalism in broadcasting,” the participants said in one voice.
The Director-General, National Broadcasting Commission, Mr. Is’haq Modibbo Kawu, while delivering a paper at the forum, said
scholars of the media around the world all agreed that the advent and consolidation of social media has posed a great challenge to conventional media in general, and conventional broadcasting, in particular.
According to him, the circulation of newspapers around the world has suffered a great deal, especially in the advanced capitalist countries. This same trend has become the norm in the setting of Nigeria. The presence of social media opened new accesses for media consumption for millions of people. This has also affected conventional broadcasting too. The opportunities to live stream has become a major added value for conventional broadcasting and the effort has largely been driven by the fact that there is a huge population of the young, that consumes media in a different way, majorly, on hand-held devices. But the most important issue has been the fundamental rupture in the manner that content can be generated and disseminated. While the conventional broadcaster must work within certain codes of professional performance, the citizen- journalist does not have such inhibiting professional factors. And it is that liberty, which has been responsible for many of the problems which social media is generating in contemporary society.
Speaking on the importance of information dissemination with historical facts, Kawu highlighted the 2014 incidence, where Nigeria was suddenly hit by the problem of Ebola Fever, as a result of the tragic arrival of a Liberian infected with the killer disease. According to him, it led to the heroic effort of the late Dr. Adadevoh, to ensure that the man who entered Nigeria with the infection did not cause the type of mass infections that could lead to the death of thousands of Nigerians. He, however, said the most important sidebar, was the information dissemination on the hysterical scrum around the consumption of salt water, as the “possible cure” for Ebola. Nigerians went into panic mode! “And the story crossed over from social media platforms into conventional media, including broadcasting. It turned out, that the origin of the story of that salt water “cure”, was a mischievous effort by two young people to exploit the incredulity of Nigerians. They imagined that Nigerians could or would fall for the story and of course, they did! Quite a number of people lost their lives. I wrote a piece titled: Ebola Virus and The Salt Water of Ignorance, for my weekly column in Vangaurd and Blueprint newspapers on the 14th of August, 2014, to explore that issue. More contemporary, is the issue of the clashes between Nomadic herdsmen and sedentary farming communities, and the manner that stories have emerged unmediated, often from social media platforms, and are carried by conventional broadcasting platforms,” he said.
The NBC boss added: “I have a personal interest in that issue. I am writing a Ph D thesis at the moment, for the Nigeria Defence Academy’s Department of Political Science. The unmediated use of stories from social media platforms, was one of the issues that led the National Broadcasting Commission to withdraw the network licenses of the DAAR Communications Limited group last month.”
According to him, if we think this issue is only a Nigerian problem, then we missed the point, saying all over the world, there is a major challenge to the manner of conducting life that the proliferation of social media platforms, is intruding into.
“The accurate resignation of the British Ambassador to Washington, was related to the leakage of what is normally, secured, secret diplomatic correspondence, from an accredited ambassador to his country. The unflattering descriptions of President Donald Trump, in the leaked correspondence, led to a major diplomatic scandal. The Trump White House decided not to have any more relationships with the Ambassador of America’s closest ally, Great Britain. The Ambassador’s position became untenable and he eventually resigned. But in his inimitable style, President Donald Trump took to his Twitter handle, to respond to the issue. He conducted the diplomacy on social media, as he did in the conflict with North Korea. Fake news, hate and dangerous speech, half truths, fantastic claims, hoaxes, the manipulation of photography, the mischievous editing of images and emergence of software that can place image over others to present false narratives, are some of the realities of the world of social media,” Kawu said.
He explained that when information are unmediated, they could be used to deepen discourses of hate, and reinforce prejudices.
“Nigerian conventional media platforms, especially newspapers, illustrate news about alleged “armed herdsmen”, by sourcing pictures of armed herdsmen from the internet. But in almost every single one of these materials that I have studied, as part of my PhD work, these images were either Dinka or Nueur nomads from South Sudan. They carry arms in their herding activities, and since there are no images of Nigerian herdsmen doing so, even with the proliferation of narratives affirming such, our media sources such pictures from online, social media platforms, to reinforce the deep seated prejudices of their readers and audiences. The result has been the increasingly tense environment in the country and the reinforcement of tendencies towards the outbreak of ever more tragic conflicts in our country,” he said.
Social media platforms
Social media in Nigeria has evolved in the context of the demographic changes that country has witnessed over the past two decades. According to Wolrdometer, the United Nations Department of Social and Economic Affairs, Population Division, World Population Tracking System, Nigeria, has a population of 201, 203, 000 people and counting. Nigeria ranks 7th in the world’s population, and that means that 2.6 per cent of the world’s population is Nigerian. 51.9 per cent of the Nigerian population lives in urban communities, while the median age is 17.9 years. These figures are very vital in the understanding of the evolution of social media platforms in Nigeria. The majority of Nigerians today is young; and these young people spend a significant amount of time on social media platforms, consuming news and other contents, through their hand-held devices. They are also generating or sharing all kinds of content, including the positive or the hateful. That is the nature of social media platforms. The central point is that the material that is spread might not have gone through any forms of professional mediation to check veracity or fairness and other basic canons that would affect the conventional broadcasting praxis.
The National Broadcasting Commission, the regulatory body for the broadcast industry in Nigeria, is of the opinion that the conventional broadcaster in the Nigerian setting must start from the pedestal of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code. According to the Director-General of NBC, the code describes broadcasting as “a creative medium, characterised by professionalism, choice and innovation, to serve the interest of the public.”
The code appreciates the importance of broadcast technology and platforms, pointing out that these avail the practitioners “the best means of information dissemination and reception”; and therefore “enables the individual to share in and contribute the best of his/her ability, to the world around him/her.”
The central kernel in the setting of Nigeria is also well set forth by the Nigeria Broadcasting Code: “Broadcasting shall influence society positively, setting the agenda for the social, cultural, economic, political and technological development of (our) nation, for the public good.” According to him, the code appreciates the fact that the Nigerian, through the means of broadcasting, is expected to partake in the sharing of ideas and experiences that will enrich the life of the citizenry and help them live in a complex, dynamic and humane society.
He said the vision for Nigerian broadcasting, is that it “shall essentially match the best in the profession anywhere in the world, yet be distinctly Nigerian, projecting the best and discouraging the worst in the society. “In other words, the cardinal responsibility of broadcasting to inform, educate and entertain shall not be at the expense of national interest, unity and cohesion of Nigeria’s diverse social, cultural, economic, political and religious configurations,” he said.
Kawu explained that on the basis of that, the code further buttressed that “no broadcast shall encourage or incite to crime, lead to public disorder, be repugnant to public feeling or contain an offensive reference to any person, alive or dead, or generally be disrespectful to human dignity”. The broad platforms laid out by the code, appreciate the important of social media platforms as source platforms for the conventional broadcasting platforms.
Kawu, who hinged on the Nigerian Broadcasting Code to discuss the dangers of fake news dissemination, said despite the central place of the broadcasting code at the heart of Nigerian broadcasting, the industry nevertheless confronts the challenges of hate and dangerous speech, abusive comments, hyping, the phenomenon of the anchor who wants to interject his/her own opinion on contemporary societal issues, and the unmediated exploitation of social media platforms as sources for user generated content.
According to him, social interactions at home and at work are gradually suffering as every individual locks himself/herself away into social media virtual reality. The quality of relationships erodes and this is all around us. Even mental health professionals are becoming increasingly panic about the impact that social media has on mental health.
“Some believe that the constant distraction of social media, contributes to shortened attention spans. In addition, many people who regularly use platforms like Facebook or Twitter report high levels of stress. Of course, any issue of mental health challenge can impact on the long term health of society and productivity,” Kawu said.
He added: “In accurate times, the cry of “fake news” has become commonplace and societal confidence, in even traditional media outlets, has been significantly eroded. Unfortunately, false, misleading, or confusing online content find their way on to conventional broadcasting platforms as we pointed out, at the NBC, in the accurate controversy with one of our major licensees.”
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If we have learned anything over the last two years amidst the global pandemic, it’s that employees want and need work-life integration.
This is a step beyond work-life balance. ‘Balance’ implies that things are equal and that a person is giving their professional and their personal lives the same amount of time and energy. The reality is that, after work, sleep, commuting, eating, and taking care of others, we don’t have a lot of time left for our personal lives. Balance is nearly impossible, so integration is the next best thing.
Work-life integration is the blending of personal and professional lives and responsibilities and finding areas of compromises — and that’s what Sheryl Sandberg reported that she wasn’t able to do at Meta. Sandberg announced that she would be stepping down in the fall of 2022, saying that, “It’s a job that I love, but it’s 24/7…it’s not a job you can do and also do other things.”
Women in many industries, including tech, have long been considered “unable” to handle the responsibilities of work and home life. And some organizations have used that as an excuse to either not hire women or not promote them.
For so long, Sandberg’s success challenged that notion. After 14 years at Meta and an even longer career in general, we would hope that she more than proved what is possible for women in tech. Unfortunately, a lot of women in the tech industry will likely hear a chorus of “I told you so” after Sandberg’s departure — but is that sentiment really warranted?
Women, more so than their male counterparts, are often looked to for several tasks outside of their normal “9 to 5.” In addition to often having increased responsibilities at home, women frequently take on non-revenue generating tasks at work such as party planning and note taking. Those activities add to the culture and success of the organization, but they don’t garner the same attention as activities that directly impact the bottom line.
Thus, in industries like technology where women are very much the minority and are often assumed to be unable to compete, it can set them back even further.
Thankfully, Sandberg left a blueprint for how women can succeed in the tech industry.
In her book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, she shares that blueprint gems like:
Sandberg’s departure from Meta will undoubtedly be felt for many years. But she left behind a legacy and a plan for women to continue to grow their careers in tech and every other industry. It’s now up to every company out there to realize the goldmine they have in their female staff and make sure they have every chance to succeed.
But the desire for work-life integration isn’t limited to any one gender. With Sandberg being so vocal, many may think that the tech industry is a walk in the park for men, but the truth is, employees of all demographics are facing difficulties and all employees are hoping for the same outcomes — success, autonomy, flexibility, and life integration.
Elon Musk’s accurate insistence that employees end remote work, combined with the even more accurate discovery that he was spying on employee’s personal social media to learn more about their desire to unionize, go against everything we know about keeping employees engaged and connected to a company.
In a recent study, 77% of respondents said they want to work for a company that gives them the flexibility to work from anywhere. As an example, when Apple took a stance against remote working as an option, they experienced a spike in resignations.
Similarly, when we think of organizations monitoring their employees, we are reminded that moving away from a surveillance model to a performance- or outcome-focused approach increases engagement and performance. For many managers, remote work made them feel a lack of control over their business so they, like Elon, moved towards surveillance. But this pushes employees to an avoidance mode — that is, seeking to avoid being “watched” — and that fixed mindset stifles creativity and engagement.
Elon Musk seems to believe that the way to boost productivity is to monitor and remove all autonomy and flexibility from employees. The opposite is actually true. We’ve learned that in most industries, tech included, employees working remotely boosts productivity.
So the question is: Is the return to the office about productivity or about monitoring employee activity? Unfortunately in some cases, it has seemed to be the latter. Managers push for productivity and control by increasing monitoring and decreasing options provided to employees. This in turn leads to increased turnover and lower productivity — two things no company can afford right now.
As the tech industry continues to see changes, leaders are faced with the opportunity to continue to build on the success they have seen historically.
Women like Sheryl Sandberg have left a lasting impression and hopefully will continue to, ultimately bringing the industry with them.
That success will be amplified if the industry can provide all employees the autonomy and flexibility they need to produce the stellar results all companies are looking for.
Christy Pruitt-Haynes is a consultant at NeuroLeadership Institute
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The Black Agenda by Glen Ford (OR Books: New York and London, 2021)
Tomorrow, July 28, marks the 1-year anniversary of the passing of Glen Ford, founding executive editor of Black Agenda Report (BAR), an independent online publication that aims to provide “news, commentary and analysis from the Black left.”
Before Ford died at 71, he was able to publish a selection of his articles as a book, The Black Agenda.
While reading, I highlighted words and phrases Ford invented to help burn the impact of injustice into people’s minds. If he wanted to, he could have published a dictionary of the new vocabulary. It is that numerous.
He made clear in his writings it was not enough to be against injustice. One had to explain it in a way so people would be inspired to organize a liberation movement. In Ford’s case, he was trying to encourage poor and working-class Black people to struggle against the “Black misleadership class,” a group of turncoat Black people who had aligned with the ruling class. Ford viewed former U.S. President Barack Obama and many Black members of the U.S. Congress as working against the interests of the 48 million people of African descent in the United States and the close to 2 billion Africans throughout the world.
Take, for example, what Ford wrote in a 2020 article left out of the book. In it, he compared the relationship the Black misleadership class has with white capital to a toxic marriage one would see in a soap opera. He dubbed that fictional soap opera, “The Black and the Powerless,” in a play on the long-running CBS mid-day drama, “The Young and the Restless.” I cackled at his wit.
“Black misleadership class” has been associated with Ford. But he and other BAR contributors only popularized it, he said. Writer James Warren first used the term in 2005 in Black Commentator, another publication Ford co-founded before leaving to launch BAR with others (page 56).
In advocating for the 72 percent of the Black population that is poor and working class, he wrote in a piece published a few months before Obama was elected (page 33):
Slow-acting Katrinas in the form of gentrification are what Black folks can expect—and must find ways to resist and defeat—from the ruling Lords of Capital for the foreseeable future, Obama or no Obama. There will be no “age” named after the handsome, articulate, and oh-so-slick but otherwise ordinary corporate candidate for president who used to call himself Barry. This is the Age of Katrina, and Barry is part of the problem.
A child of communists, Ford grew up surrounded by his Irish mother’s door-to-door grassroots activism in New Jersey and his father, the first Black host of a non-religious television program in Georgia. In a 2013 interview with journalist Paul Jay, Ford said those experiences aided in developing his “bifurcated brain.” That might explain Ford’s ability to merge the art of storytelling with a revolutionary conscience.
“Glen Ford is irreplaceable not just because his writing was so sharp and so clear,” BAR co-founder Margaret Kimberley wrote in the foreword to the book (page xii), “but also because his politics were so clearly of the left. He was not a liberal, or a Democrat, or a progressive. He was a Marxist, and he brought that ideology to all that he did. In doing so he revealed important information that is regularly disregarded or disappeared. He also had a talent for making every issue understandable and making connections with the reality of people’s lives.”
After stints in the U.S. Army, on the radio in rural Georgia, writing for the daily newspaper of the Communist Party of the United States, and helping out the Black Panther Party’s Jersey City chapter in New Jersey, Ford led and/or launched several efforts in radio, TV, print, and online. The most memorable feat appears to be the 2006 co-founding of Black Agenda Report.
Blueprint for Liberation
In Ford’s writing, everything is minced and fried up for consumption. Once I start studying one of his articles, I follow it all the way, tickled at the imagery he uses and his climactic endings. For example, chew on phrases like:
Ford’s depth of analysis and the breadth of subjects he analyzed is awe-inspiring, too. How could someone know so much about… so much? Because the man did not get distracted. Plus, he was an internationalist. And so, Ford could go from the U.S. invasion of Iraq to the surge of Western-armed jihadists into Syria, and the NATO invasion of Libya, the corporate takeover of Black Lives Matter, reparations for Black people, Hurricane Katrina’s impact on Black people, the Detroit hijacking of pensions, the origins of “Thanksgiving,” billionaires and millionaires running for elected office, Occupy Wall Street, and much more.
Journalists like Ford are hard to find. Not only does it not pay to tell the truth, some journalists risk their lives doing so (check out Mumia Abu-Jamal, Julian Assange and Shireen Abu Akleh). And so, Ford led a humble existence, as one of his friends told me.
In the final piece compiled for The Black Agenda, Ford paid tribute to George Floyd, the Black man whom Minneapolis police murdered in 2020. It led to the largest popular uprising in U.S. history. But because of his political training, Ford included a blueprint for liberation in searing language (page 326):
Community control is how we build socialism within the framework of people’s right to self-determination—the principles by which, along with solidarity, we decolonize and dis-imperialize our world. “Power to the People” means disempowering the capitalist and white supremacist. Everything else is a diversion, conjured up by the Kente cloth-soiling Black misleadership class in service to their bosses, the oligarchs. They have betrayed us repeatedly and laughed at our willingness to trust them yet again. In George Floyd’s name, let this be the end of it.
May more people be inspired to do the honest journalism Ford modeled.
Julie Varughese is editor of Toward Freedom.
I’ll keep it brief this time and let the links do the talking but, this week, you also get to enjoy a delightful depiction of people avidly consuming internet content on their smartphones in my chosen image: not quite ‘women laughing alone with salad‘ level, but the stock photo vibes are strong in this one!
As always, the articles in this round-up haven’t been endorsed by the whole team. We do our best to add appropriate content notes, but some links may contain further upsetting details about oppression and injustice, so please click with caution.
If you’re already registered as a subscriber and notice we’ve missed out any important articles/issues from the past week, you can get in touch with us via the comment form at the bottom of this page (see the preamble in our 18 July round-up for the state of play on this). But, if you aren’t, please feel free to swing by our Twitter account or our Facebook page instead!
‘We’ve been waiting for this’: Rachel Yankey on women’s football, diversity and her legacy (Um-E-Aymen Babar, gal-dem)
From the article: “I just wanted to play and someone gave me another opportunity to play. It was fantastic and I scored on my debut too so I have really good memories from that. That’s why when I look at this England team there are so many young players and they just want to play football and show how good they are.”
England’s Lionesses are roared on by history: now it’s time for a new legacy (Carrie Dunn, Open Democracy)
From the article: “Regardless of England’s triumph, this tournament is not and cannot be the pinnacle; it is merely a stepping stone. Investment and media coverage must continue if the Lionesses are to win more trophies, but also to encourage girls and women to keep playing the world’s favourite sport for fun and fitness, and to simply enjoy watching the beautiful game as a matter of right, as their male peers have always done.
“And a formal tribute to the pioneers of the women’s game is inevitable – those still with us, and the ones we have already lost. They are the ones who literally sought out space to play when the authorities banned them. They are the ones who put up with the heckles, who gave up weeks of work, who paid for the privilege of representing their country. It is they who kept the game alive, who built the stage for Sarina Wiegman’s Lionesses to step into the spotlight and shine.”
Euro 2022: Five things that held women back in football (Sam Hancock, BBC News)
All-white Lionesses ‘stop black girls from dreaming’ about playing for England (Author not shown [01 Aug 2022], The Voice)
From the article: “Commentator and former professional player Eilidh Barbour remarked on the BBC the fact that the starting lineup and substitutes were white.
“She said: ‘It was an historic eight goal victory for England last night as the Lionesses secured their place in the quarter finals. But all starting 11 players and the five substitutes that came on to the pitch were all white. And that does point towards a lack of diversity in the women’s game in England’.”
‘A high point for feminism’: Woman says a stranger bought her a pint because of Lionesses win at Euro 2022 (Laura Hampson, Independent)
Chloe Kelly’s topless Euro celebration hailed feminist moment of the decade (Sarah-Jayne Tobin, Evoke)
From the article: “Here was a woman celebrating herself and her body and what she can do without an ounce of self-consciousness, self-doubt or sexual innuendo.
“She was caught up in the moment of elation taking the extremely well-deserved plaudits surrounded by her team mates who worked together all tournament long believing in themselves and playing to their own strengths rather than adapting to suit their opponents.”
When women’s football was bigger than the men’s game in England, and how it was banned by the FA (Cahal Milmo, iNews)
England win Euro 2022: how women’s football beat the sceptics to breathe new life into the game (John Williams, The Conversation)
Giving out flowers on TikTok: is this a ‘random act of kindness’ or just benevolent ageism? (Natasha Ginnivan and Kaarin Anstey, The Conversation) [Australia]
From the article: “These TikTok random acts of kindness can have the unfortunate overtone of the twin prejudices of ageism and sexism. Older women targeted in this way can be left feeling like their identity is reduced to being just an older lady in need of pity.”
Must be ‘fit and active’ or ‘digital native’: how ageist language keeps older workers out (Chris Farrell, Market Watch)
Anne Hathahate was rooted in misogyny – and a new generation aren’t standing for it (Meg Walters, Independent)
From the article: “It’s impossible to examine this movement […] without touching on the gender bias going on with the Hathahaters or twee-scorners. After all, it’s hard to think of many male celebrities who were subject to similar levels of derision for simply being themselves. It’s clear today that it wasn’t just that we disliked earnest women – we didn’t believe in it.”
Wartime sexual violence: How Swiss NGOs are helping Ukraine survivors heal (Liv Martin, Geneva Solutions)
[CN: rape, VAW]
Resisting the cost of living crisis in the UK could be the tipping point for socialist solidarity (Tatiana Garavito, gal-dem)
[CN: domestic violence]
From the article: “These international power shifts have something in common: they run on socialist manifestos that are built and enriched by grassroots movements and they champion a politics centred on justice. Interestingly, these wins have been sparked by the cost of living crises exacerbated by neoliberal policies and fossil fuel dependency.
“I can’t help but wonder if resisting Britain’s spiralling cost of living crisis can bring our own socialist solidarity, and if we dare to truly imagine, a long-term socialist victory.”
Abortion deleted from UK Government-organised international human rights statement (Humanists UK)
Abortion rights: history offers a blueprint for how pro-choice campaigners might usefully respond (Agnes Arnold Foster, The BMJ)
Victory for sex workers as council votes to keep strip clubs open in Bristol (Aphra Evans, The Bristol Cable)
WE DID IT!!! After a two year slog of campaigning against people with far more institutional power and privilege than a group of sex workers, we beat the nil-cap with a vote of 9-1 (Bristol Sex Workers Collective, Twitter)
From the thread: “The dancers have been put through an incredible amount of stress over the last two years, not only having to defend their work rights but their humanity. They have had to listen whilst they were blamed for gendered violence. Their experiences dismissed as sex industry lobbying.”
Also see this open letter from Bristol Sex Workers’ Collective and our 17 January 2022 and 18 April 2022 round-up posts.
Queer Whore Collective: I Told My Parents That I’m A Sex Worker (Writer: Whorezontal Perspective, Polyester)
From the article: “A turning point of realisation was when I watched my older cousin, who also waitressed and usually never wore makeup to anything, Studying for work. She told me she wants the effort of putting on makeup to be worth it at least. Implying that she wouldn’t do it for free, but knows that she will make more money wearing it that evening, so is willing to invest the extra 20 minutes getting ready. I don’t think she would ever consider herself a sex worker, or anything related to it. But, like many others, like me long before I started sex working, she sure leaves her shift with more money for being unspokenly sexualised.”
This Person Went Mega-Viral for Listing Sex Work as Their Job on LinkedIn, And It Started a Massive Debate About “Valid Professions” (Alexa Lisitza, BuzzFeed)
Sex work, ‘normal work,’ and men — as told by Alyssa (Megan Cattel, wbur) [transcript in article]
Endless Thread podcast
Women’s March Organizers Slam Backpage.com Shutdown: ‘Sex Workers Rights Are Women’s Rights’ (Jon Levine, The Wrap) [US]
A Lesbian Utopia: 30 Years of A League of Their Own (Louisa Maycock, Girls on Tops)
Trans women could be banned from women’s rugby in England under proposed policy change (Maggie Baska, PinkNews)
Where does the British public stand on transgender rights in 2022? (Matthew Smith, YouGov)
[CN: erosion in support for trans rights; also see quote in link below]
Here’s How Trans People Feel About YouGov’s Survey on Trans Rights (Gemma Stone, HuffPost)
From the article: “I […] spoke to jane fae, the chair of Trans Media Watch, a UK organisation advocating for accuracy and respect when reporting on trans lives. She’s filed a formal complaint accusing YouGov of including ‘misleading’ questions within the survey. For example, the public were asked if they thought ‘gender reassignment surgery’ should be available to under 16s. In reality, transitional surgeries are only available to those 18 and above.
“Fae is concerned ‘the asking of questions about alarmist scenarios that no-one is advocating is clearly designed to shape opinion on the broader issue rather than contribute to meaningful debate’.”
I Screamed for About a Minute!’: Lesbian Couples Finally Have Equal Access to NHS IVF (Rachel Moss, HuffPost)
DHS Challenge Coins Say ‘Border Patrol Lives Matter’ (Joseph Cox, Vice) [US]
From the article: “A series of challenge coins made to commemorate the Portland protests in 2020 for federal law enforcement contain phrases such as “Border Patrol Lives Matter” and a fist that resembles one often used with the Black Lives Matter movement. Another coin includes the helmet of a Star Wars Stormtrooper surrounded by the emblems of various agencies, including multiple parts of the Department of Homeland Security, according to photos of the coins posted in private Facebook Groups and then shared with Motherboard.”
Warning racism in police has been ‘taken out of canteens and put on WhatsApp’ (Lizzie Dearden, Independent)
The Range discontinues ‘sexist bodyshaming’ weight loss items after backlash (Laura Hampson, Independent)
The Darkest Part of the Night at the Kiln review: Zodwa Nyoni’s play about autism is uneven but affecting (Nick Curtis, Evening Standard)
To disclose, or not to disclose… a personal autism journey (Claire O’Connor)
Isn’t it time for further legislation to tackle social class inequality and classism? (Basit Mahmood, Left Foot Forward)
Climate change: How to talk to a denier (Merlyn Thomas and Marco Silva, BBC News)
Gal-dem and Vice Join Forces to Publish ‘Open Secrets’ Series (Musicians Union)
Big Joanie share new single ‘In My Arms’, detail second album and UK tour (Ellie Robinson, NME)
This week’s links were sourced and compiled by Holly, with thanks to Alessia for recommending Girls on Tops and Polyester Zine. I will be checking them out on my travels from here!
The featured image shows four individuals studying their phones intently. From left to right: a masculine-presenting and light-skinned person of colour, who has a shaved head and is wearing a brown shirt, dark grey trousers and white earphones; a femme-presenting Black person who has dip-dyed ear-length curly hair and is wearing a white shirt, blue jeans and black-rimmed glasses; and a femme-presenting East Asian person who has long black hair tied back and is wearing a white/black/brown vertically striped shirt with capped sleeves and navy trousers. This third person is looking over at a phone held by the fourth: a femme-presenting white person who has long brown hair and is wearing a black T-shirt, open black shirt and white/grey vertically striped trousers. The people on the left appear to be concentrating and aren’t smiling, while the people on the right are smiling together.
The image is from rawpixel.com and is licensed under a CC0 Public Domain Dedication, which is free for personal and commercial use.
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During the election campaign, Labor promised to reduce household electricity bills by $275 a year. Amid the global energy crisis triggered by the Ukraine war, the government will have to find a way to walk that back. The commitment to more vigorous climate action will also need to be balanced by energy realism.
It was business getting out in front on climate policy that helped to force the Morrison government to back net zero by 2050.
As exposed by the energy crunch, the world will continue to depend on fossil fuel energy during the decades-long transition to net zero. Australia will have a key transition role to play as a safe and reliable provider of natural gas, especially to Asia, until hydrogen achieves scale.
Because of political go-slows and bans on gas exploration and developments in NSW and Victoria, there is now a clamour to pull the gas trigger and impose export controls on Queensland’s LNG industry to alleviate gas shortages on the eastern seaboard.
Gas-fired electricity will play a critical role in energy security during the transition, by backing up renewables when the wind isn’t blowing and sun isn’t shining, as coal plants are phased out. For all these reasons, Australia will need to get more gas out of its abundant reserves.
It will become feasible to close down fossil fuel industries only once reliable and affordable replacement energy sources are available. Yet climate activists are now likely to seek to weaponise the legislated emissions targets and use the courts and environmental approval processes to shut down new gas projects.
Climate lawfare, aided and abetted by judicial activists on the bench, will increase the cost of decarbonisation and jeopardise political support for the transition.
Backing Labor’s 2030 emissions target is just a tactical retreat from the protest party spoiler role that led the Greens to join the Coalition in killing the Rudd government’s emissions trading scheme in 2009. Such politicking compares poorly with the business-like plan of Atlassian founder and climate activist Mike Cannon-Brookes, who has taken control of the nation’s largest electricity company to accelerate AGL’s exit from coal and achieve 100 per cent renewable generation sooner.
During his address to the National Press Club on Wednesday, Mr Bandt railed against business in undergraduate-Marxist style. Yet it was business getting out in front of the political system on climate policy that helped to force the Morrison government to move to the centre and back net zero by 2050. Business also backed Labor’s more ambitious 2030 targets.
Labor should adopt the Business Council of Australia’s push to widen the safeguard mechanism to bigger emitters so that it can operate as a de facto carbon price.
But for the Greens holding climate policy to ransom, the economy-wide emissions trading scheme would have been helping efficiently lower greenhouse pollution for more than a decade. The challenge for Labor will be to hit its carbon targets while keeping the gas flowing and the lights on during the transition.
When it was launched in 2016, Theragun was a revolutionary product that created a new category. Since that time, the company has broadened their reach and rebranded as Therabody in 2020 in recognition of that bigger mission. I sat down with Benjamin Nazarian, CEO of Therabody to learn more about the company’s evolution, how he became involved in the business, and how they approach their innovation pipeline.
Dave Knox: What is the origin story of Therabody?
Benjamin Nazarian: Around 2014, I was setting up an incubator to help entrepreneurs who had built great products and really needed a mentor in terms of business operations, strategy, finance, and legal. In the process, I met Dr. Jason Wersland, who had invented this product that became Theragun and was looking for both capital and business help.
I have had a bad back my entire life. If I sleep poorly or the muscles are tight from stress, it can easily trigger to the point where I can't move my neck. I have gone through pretty much every treatment for that. When Dr. Jason came into my office to show me the product, it was not about showing a fancy deck or an investor presentation. He said, "Let me just show you what this thing does. There's no way to really explain it." And he used it on me and it reminded me of the deep muscle therapy that I used to get to loosen up my muscles when they would tighten up. But that deep muscle therapy was a very painful process with someone taking their elbow and sticking it deep into your back. When (Dr. Jason) put this product on me, it provided that deep muscle penetration, but it didn’t hurt. And the reason for that is it hits your body 40 times a second. So your body doesn't even realize it's touching you. And it works so well because your body is actually relaxed while it's doing that deep muscle therapy.
When we started, we never thought that we would be creating a whole category that would be a mass consumer product. If Dr. Jason had come into my office and said, "Oh yeah, that's what this would be," I would have thought he's crazy. When I first met him, he had been working on this for eight years and he had validated it by working with professional athletes, pro football teams, and his own patients in his clinic. So there was some validation to the product, but he really didn't know how to commercialize it, how to bring it to market, or how to get it out there. And we sat down in my conference room and spent hours developing a business plan and it ended up being the blueprint for the first five years of our business. And it's really been a great guiding post for what we need to do to grow the business.
Knox: What has been the brand's evolution from that initial Theragun product to the broader company that today is Therabody?
Nazarian: When we first started, the product and the company name were both Theragun. We only had one product, which was the Theragun PRO. At the beginning, we got a lot of criticism for naming ourselves Theragun because of the negative stigma attached to guns. Today the entire category is called massage guns, but we knew that was a broader mission to our company and we wanted to do more than just a Theragun product line. We spent a number of years looking at different names so that we can rename the company, but keep the product as Theragun. Last year when we were looking to launch our CBD line called TheraOne, we had a whiteboarding session and somebody threw out the comment, "Well, what if we have something around the body in our name because we're really thinking about the entire body. We want to help the whole body. We are for every body." And we thought, "Well, what about Therabody?" It's very difficult to name companies because the domain has to be available, Instagram, Facebook accounts have to be available. And luckily enough, Therabody was available and we nabbed all the names we could and registered it and we rebranded to Therabody to represent our broader mission.
Knox: As the category you created has evolved, what makes Therabody unique and what is the broader company mission?
Nazarian: With so many pro athletes using our products, people look at us as a fitness recovery company. The reality is most of our customers are using the product for the same reason that Dr. Jason invented it, which was when he got injured. He had deep muscular pain. He did not want to resort to opiates and pain medication. He did not want to have surgery. And he ended up inventing this as a natural alternative to those options.
Our mission is to help everybody live a better, healthier life using products that are an alternative to traditional medicine. Theragun is one modality that does that, the same way Dr. Jason invented it, but there are a lot of other great technologies. As a company, our goal is to bring to market the best products that are backed by science. We spent a lot of time on research and validating it to make sure that there is nothing that is gimmicky about it. We can show that there's efficacy behind it. And then how do we bring those products to help consumers address various needs to help them live a better life? There's really no company that is innovating and creating products that are addressing this health and wellness area of alternative pain management and recovery. And we have a very strong leadership position and are looking to bring out new products to help people in different ways.
Knox: As you build your innovation pipeline, what is guiding your approach to new products?
Nazarian: We have a two-pronged approach. One is listening to our customers. What are they looking for? What do they need? What are they asking for? CBD was a great example – Dr. Jason's patients and the pro athletes he worked with were talking about how effective CBD was. But they didn't know what brand to trust, how often to use it, or how much to use. We realized that there was a huge opportunity to come out with a premium product that addressed this. Our TheraOne line is fully USDA certified organic, and we can educate them on the benefits and how to use CBD and how often to use it.
The second prong is what Steve Jobs said, which is that consumers don't necessarily know what they need until you show them. We are looking at a lot of different technologies that are out there that we know work. Maybe they're used by pro athletes, maybe they're not even being used in a consumer fashion. And how do we develop products that are the right form factor, and at the right price points so it can be available to everyday consumers. How do we explain it to them so they understand what the technology does, what the benefits are and how to use it so it can truly benefit them.
We take those two approaches and drive the product development cycle. One important final part is we then have our science team and Dr. Jason do the proper research to make sure that the efficacy is there. Dr. Jason is testing it on patients, on people he works with, and getting feedback. How does it feel? Did it help? What's the right form factor? And after doing all that, we will launch a product and then make that available to the consumer.
Knox: On the science side, what sort of testing do you complete to support the claims of these new products?
Nazarian: We do a lot of research and we have a number of studies underway. We have one that shows the improvement of blood flow and increase in blood flow when using a Theragun which helps drive recovery. We did a study around Theragun helping for sleep and how it helps people sleep better. Rather than just coming out and saying, "These are the things we think," we try to validate it and take a scientific approach to it. There are a lot of gimmicky products out there. People make a lot of claims that they cannot back up. We have heard a number of claims or benefits around Theragun from our consumers. And they say, "How come you don't include this in your marketing?" And the reality is we want to make sure we can back it up before we say it. And so we take a very thoughtful and scientific approach to it. We have a brand that people trust. And I think the most important thing is never breaking that trust. We're very thoughtful, but we want to make sure we're approaching it the right way.
Knox: When it comes to your innovation strategy, is it all internally developed or do you explore external opportunities as well?
Nazarian: Our goal is to help people and to come out with products and technologies that will do that. We have a very strong R&D team and a very strong engineering team, but it doesn't mean that we can do everything. And so one good example is our acquisition of PowerDot in the electric stimulation business. Stimulation was something that was readily available in a physical therapy clinic before and PowerDot was able to bring it to a consumer to use at home in a very easy way with a very understandable and easy to use app. It was not something that we could replicate as well as they could. We have had a great relationship with them for a number of years and that led to Therabody acquiring them and having PowerDot and their team join us to make that product available on a global basis.
Knox: As you think about your marketing communication, how do you balance the line between being a solution for both professional athletes, as well as the everyday consumer?
Nazarian: It's such an important part of what we talk about because it's easy for someone to say, "This is for professional athletes. I'm not a basketball player. I'm not a football player. Why do I need this?" And part of what we do is actually work with the pro athletes, our ambassadors, to have them tell the story of why they use it and how they use it. And the stories that they tell apply to every single one of us. I'm not a weekend warrior by any stretch, but I use the Theragun. We work with our pro athletes to tell those more human stories because athletes at the end of the day have bodies like us. Yeah, they put a toll on their body in a very different way, but we also put a toll on our bodies. We try to tell the story of how our products help everyone who's got a muscle and puts a toll on their body. Whether it's me which puts a toll on my body through exercise or travel or someone who's got a physically grueling job like in the construction sector or sitting behind a Zoom call for 12 hours, we all put a strain on our muscles and we can treat our muscles in a way that does not need to resort to pain medication. And that's our goal.
Knox: You were first introduced to Theragun through the incubator you ran. How has being involved in the entrepreneurial ecosystem helped you as you’ve grown Therabody?
Nazarian: I have been really fortunate because I have been both on the operational side of running companies, as well as on the investment side looking at companies. The investment side allows me to learn what the entrepreneurs have done that worked and what mistakes have they made. There are a lot of lessons that I have learned from other people's mistakes. Not every venture investment works out so you get to learn from other people's failure. There are two big lessons that I have learned.
Number one is money doesn't solve all problems. Companies go and raise substantial amounts of money and sometimes that makes you have to be less scrappy and not as smart in the way you approach things because you can throw money at the problem. And we have been profitable every year since 2017 and we've been very thoughtful about where to invest and how to grow; we didn't just go by customers or by revenue. We have done it in a very thoughtful way.
And the second lesson has been that you are going to keep running into roadblocks. But how do you pivot? How do you problem solve? And how do you keep pushing through whenever you run into a problem? And we've applied those same philosophies at Therabody to grow the business.