Trust me, I’m a writer.

By Dylan R.N. Crabb

 

“Journalism is not supposed to be propaganda from politicians.  Journalism is supposed to hold politicians accountable for what they say (Ana Kasparian, The Young Turks, 2019).”

How can a news organization today (particularly a new organization) gain the trust of the public given the current over-saturation of the market?  I think the key is transparency for themselves, each reporter/editor/producer must be willing to put their name in front of the public eye and stand up for their work in the face of criticism.  Make sure that any one of your readers/viewers/listeners can approach you with questions if they so desire and accept criticism with grace; do not let praise inflate your ego.  This is also just good advice in general – be honest with yourself about what you’re doing, try to be self-aware in what you do, and maintain an over-arching vision to guide your work.

It’s impossible to be completely objective simply because most humans orient themselves around their subjective feelings rather than logic and their objective surroundings but that doesn’t mean that we can not strive for objectivity for its own sake.  Every human has the capacity for logical reasoning through critical thinking and discourse, it’s what makes our species so powerful in nature – we can come together around common goals and manipulate our environment in ways other animals can not.  However; this attribute is a double-edged sword for, if we remain too long in one group with the same ideas in circulation over and over and over again, our minds become dull from ease and the group weakens with fatigue.  To maintain a competitive edge, a group of humans must always be inviting to a variety of ideas, individuals must be willing to challenge themselves to sharpen their arguments.  Echo chambers are dangerous.

This is exactly what modern media has become: an ecosystem of echo chambers.  People on the political Right-wing have their own sources, people on the political Left-wing have their own sources, and more moderately-minded people don’t know where to go for sources so they try to read multiple sources from both sides of the spectrum (if they don’t opt out of politics altogether) all the while animosity for everyone else increases and politics becomes more and more tribal.  Modernity is supposed to be more civilized than tribalism.

I think I’m digressing, let’s go back to the topic of modern news media.  I think the key to success in news media is transparency which is why I want to list what I think is important to discuss when it comes to political engagement, government functions, and such:

  • the role of a government relative to the society it presides over,
  • hearing from a variety of perspectives regardless of popularity,
  • clarifying differences between perspectives and taking care to NOT miss-represent one’s ideas.

I believe these to be important facets of news media – a result of my own beliefs in individualism, free speech, pluralism, government and corporate transparency, and democratic-republicanism.  My goal with my writing (both my personal writing and professional writing) is to promote inquiry into how our societies operate, encourage more people to ask questions that some people in positions of power may not want to answer.  I’ve written in the past about my belief in writing skills and their importance to civilization and I stand by that belief today.

Entrepreneur creates mobile app for small California town.

By Dylan R.N. Crabb

 

No Ego Apps Development Incorporated, or NEAD Inc., is a private company that creates mobile apps for iPhone and Android users.  Its founder and chief executive officer lives in Seal Beach, California, and has created an app specifically for the community.

SB app, screenshot
Screenshot of the Seal Beach app designed by NEAD Inc.

TJ Sokoll lives on the Boardwalk in Seal Beach and is a strong believer in personal civic participation.  He began his career as an app developer with video games but quickly realized the potential beyond entertainment. “I realized that these aren’t just games, this is a computer in everybody’s hand” says Sokoll, although this was not his initial career plan. enormous “I was actually a stockbroker for quite a few years but I became disenfranchised with everything the financial industry was about, so I left and was looking for something else to do.” That was at age 34.  Sokoll said that he got into mobile game development on a whim when he created a video stickball game for his friends and was able to put it on the Apple store.  Within days he saw that it had been downloaded across the world and decided to give the industry a shot. NEAD Inc. had created between 30 and 35 games when it began to branch out into other aspects of the mobile sector.  Sokoll wanted to create an app for Seal Beach because he wanted to give residents here a tool for connecting with each other and crafting their voice in the community. “At the time that I started, there seemed to be such a disconnect with our local communities – everyone was so enamored with Twitter and Facebook and you were connected to everyone around the world – but we didn’t know was happening in our own backyard.” NEAD Inc.’s first client was the city of Diamond Bar, California, in 2011 and that app is now in its third version.  NEAD Inc. has since created 18 more apps for cities across Orange County, including Huntington Beach and Seal Beach under the umbrella, MyCivicApps. “We’ve made custom apps for cities, boys & girls clubs, schools, politicians, organizations, non-profits, and some celebrities.  It’s been an interesting run, to say the least.” The Seal Beach app has been live for about two weeks now and specifically gives users an RSS feed to the City of Seal Beach website as well as access to web pages for various city departments with contact information for those departments.  This easy access to city information makes for an open resource for citizen participation in local issues as well as citizen journalism.  The app also gives users an RSS feed for press releases from the city and news articles from the Sun News. Most of NEAD Inc.’s apps are available for free at your respective app store on your mobile device.  Sokoll explained that he built his Seal Beach app for free and maintains it for free because he believes in what the app can be for people here: a public resource. “It took me maybe three hours to put this app together and get it out to the community and it didn’t cost me anything because it’s on my platform, so why wouldn’t I do it?” Sokoll also explained that he tried to give the app to the City of Seal Beach so they could run it as a public resource, but the city declined his offer.  A city official said they are reviewing different apps but at present don’t have the resources to maintain one – including personnel to answer questions or interact with residents.  The business district for Huntington Beach, on the other hand, accepted a similar offer and now manages an app that NEAD Inc. created for them called “HB Downtown.” Sokoll is currently developing plans for expanding MyCivicApps past Orange County and across the United States.  One can find more information about NEAD Inc.’s apps at the web address: <http://www.mycivicapps.com>.  Sokoll is 40-years-old and also works as a tech consultant for a variety of clients.

TJ Sokoll
TJ Sokoll, founder and CEO of NEAD Inc.

Publisher’s note: the above article was originally intended for the Sun News in Seal Beach, Caifornia, but it was pulled during the eleventh hour.  The writer has decided to publish it himself.