And a new paradigm for center-based spirituality for all of our guiding institutions.
Imagine, for a moment, living in a world born from spirituality. Visionary Matthew Fox embraces a concept of a creation-centered spirituality, in which all that exist are a blessing and bring ancient wisdom to solve current issues.
Fox embraces a sacred relationship between humanity and the Earth.
“Fox’s prophetic vision of good for all people everywhere, combined with an experience of mystical unity, became the hallmark of his work.” [Science of Mind/October]. He embraces the ancient wisdom of Creation Spirituality, adapted to present-day concerns.
Creation Spirituality affirms a common ground among all the world’s faith traditions. Juline explains: “It is a theology that respects the sacredness of nature and the holy relationship humanity has with it. Centuries-old mysticism melds with current concerns about damage to the environment, social injustice, and all forms of destruction and exploitation.”
Radical compassion [mine], ‘where the harvest is compassion, unity, love, inclusion, creativity and good for everyone.’
-Kathy Juline is an author and former editor of “Science of Mind” magazine.
Fr. Richard Rohr: “When we carry our small suffering in solidarity with humanity’s one universal longing for deep union, it helps keep us from self-pity or self-preoccupation. We know that we are all in this together. It is just as hard for everybody else, and our healing is bound up in each other’s. Almost all people are carrying a great and secret hurt, even when they don’t know it. This realization softens the space around our overly defended hearts. It makes it hard to be cruel to anyone. It somehow makes us one—in a way that easy comfort and entertainment never can. Some mystics go so far as to say that individual suffering doesn’t exist at all and that there is only one suffering. It is all the same…”
Amy Walter, host of Politics w/Amy Walter on The Takeaway:
‘Dear young aspiring journalists, the reason for the outpouring of sadness and love for Cokie Roberts isn’t just b/c she was smart and really good at what she did. Her
set her apart. She didn’t sacrifice it for her job.’
The Fifth Congress had recessed in July 1798 without declaring war against France, but in the last days before adjourning it did approve other measures championed by Abigail Adams that aided in the undoing of her husband—the Alien and Sedition Acts. Worried about French agents in their midst, the lawmakers passed punitive measures changing the rules for naturalized citizenship and making it legal for the U.S. to round up and detain as “alien enemies” any men over the age of fourteen from an enemy nation after a declaration of war. Abigail heartily approved. But it was the Sedition Act that she especially cheered. It imposed fines and imprisonment for any person who “shall write, print, utter, or publish…any false, scandalous and malicious writing or writings against the government of the United States, or either house of the Congress of the United States, or the President of the United States” with the intent to defame them. Finally! The hated press would be punished. To Abigail’s way of thinking, the law was long overdue. (Of course she was ready to use the press when it served her purposes, regularly sending information to relatives and asking them to get it published in friendly gazettes.) Back in April she had predicted to her sister Mary that the journalists “will provoke measures that will silence them e’er long.” Abigail kept up her drumbeat against newspapers in letter after letter, grumbling, “Nothing will have an effect until Congress pass a Sedition Bill, which I presume they will do before they rise.” Congress could not act fast enough for the First Lady: “I wish the laws of our country were competent to punish the stirrer up of sedition, the writer and printer of base and unfounded calumny.” She accused Congress of “dilly dallying” about the Alien Acts as well. If she had had her way, every newspaperman who criticized her husband would be thrown in jail, so when the Alien and Sedition Acts were passed and signed, Abigail still wasn’t satisfied. Grumping that they “were shaved and pared to almost nothing,” she told John Quincy that “weak as they are” they were still better than nothing. They would prove to be a great deal worse than nothing for John Adams’s political future, but the damage was done. Congress went home. So did Abigail and John Adams.”
The occupier of the Oval Office, DT’s campaign and key allies plan to make allegations of bias by social media platforms a core part of their 2020 strategy, officials tell me.
- Look for ads, speeches and sustained attacks on Facebook and Twitter in particular, the sources say.
- The irony: The social platforms are created and staffed largely by liberals — but often used most effectively in politics by conservatives, the data shows.
Why it matters: DT successfully turned the vast majority of his supporters against traditional media, and hopes to do the same against the social media companies.
- Republicans’ internal data shows it stirs up the base like few other topics.
- “In the same way we’ve seen trust in legacy media organizations deteriorate over the past year, there are similarities with social media companies,” a top Republican operative involved in the effort told me.
Between the lines: The charges of overt bias by social media platforms are way overblown, several studies have found. But, if the exaggerated claims stick, it could increase the chances of regulatory action by Republicans.
- “People feel they’re being manipulated, whether it’s by what they’re being shown in their feeds, or actions the companies have taken against conservatives,” the operative said.
- “It’s easy for people to understand how these giant corporations could influence them and direct them toward a certain favored candidate.”
How tech execs see it: They know the escalation is coming, so they are cranking up outreach to leading conservatives and trying to push hard on data showing that conservative voices often outperform liberal ones.
Reality check, from Axios chief tech correspondent Ina Fried: What is real is that most of the platforms have policies against bias that some conservative figures have run afoul of.
- Managing editor Scott Rosenberg notes that Twitter is Trump’s megaphone, while Facebook is often his favorite place to run ads.
What’s next: By the time 2020 is over, trust in all sources of information will be low, and perhaps unrecoverable.
A nation without shared truth will be hard-to-impossible to govern.
MIT Management/Sloan Schools
A 4-step plan for fighting social media manipulation in elections
by Meredith Somers
Social media manipulation of voters shows no sign of abating. Two professors propose a new research agenda to fight back.
Since the 2016 presidential election, there’s been no shortage of reports about false news being shared across social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter — and with the 2020 vote only a year away, the question is not when will the misinformation strike, but how can we guard against it?
MIT professor of IT and marketing Sinan Aral and associate professor of marketing Dean Eckles propose a four-step process for researchers to measure and analyze social media manipulation, and to turn that data into a defense against future manipulation.“Without an organized research agenda that informs policy, democracies will remain vulnerable to foreign and domestic attacks,” the professors write in an article for the August 30 edition of Science magazine.
Catalogue exposures to manipulation
To defend against manipulation, Aral and Eckles write, researchers need to index a variety of social media information:
- What texts, images, and video messages were advertised?
- What type of advertisement was used (organically posted, advertised, or “boosted” through paid promotion)?
- What social platforms were these texts, images, and video messages appearing on?
- When and how were they shared and re-shared by users (in this case, voters)?
Combine exposure and voting behavior datasets
In the past, public voting records and social media accounts were compared using data like self-reported profile information. But this type of comparison can be improved by using location data already being collected by social media companies, the researchers write.
This could be something like matching voter registration with home addresses based on mobile location information — the same data used for marketing purposes by social media companies.
This could be something like matching voter registration with home addresses based on mobile location information — the same data used for marketing purposes by social media companies.
One challenge of studying voter behavior, Aral and Eckles write, is that the results aren’t always accurate enough to answer questions.
Social media companies already run A/B and algorithm tests, Aral and Eckles write. The same tests could be used to measure exposure effects.
Calculate consequences of voting behavior changes
Aral and Eckles write that measures like predicted voter behavior — with or without exposure to misinformation — should be combined with data like geographic and demographic characteristics for a particular election. This would help with vote total estimates in a particular area.
Calculate consequences of voting behavior changes
Aral and Eckles write that measures like predicted voter behavior — with or without exposure to misinformation — should be combined with data like geographic and demographic characteristics for a particular election. This would help with vote total estimates in a particular area.
Society of Professional Journalists
[Founded as Sigma Delta Chi at DePauw University in 1909]
“The real crisis of campus speech lies elsewhere—in the erosion of student newspapers…. Today, these outlets are imperiled by the same economic forces that have hollowed out local newspapers from coast to coast.”
Bureaucrats Put the Squeeze on College Newspapers
The corporatization of higher education has rendered a once-indispensable part of student life irrelevant, right when it’s needed the most.
August 23, 2019
When professional pundits talk about dangers to free expression on campus, they typically refer to a handful of incidents in which colleges have revoked invitations for controversial speakers. This, however, is a fringe issue, confined to a small number of universities. The real crisis of campus speech lies elsewhere—in the erosion of student newspapers. These once-stalwart publications have long served as consistent checks against administrative malfeasance, common forums for campus debate, and training grounds for future professional journalists. Today, these outlets are imperiled by the same economic forces that have hollowed out local newspapers from coast to coast. And unlike their professional peers, student journalists face an added barrier: The kind of bureaucratic interference Liebson met at Stony Brook is becoming the norm for student journalists.
Few school newspapers are financially independent from the institutions they cover, says Chris Evans, president of the College Media Association. As a result, college administrators hold powerful leverage over student journalists and their faculty advisers. The need for aggressive student news organizations is as acute as ever. But image-obsessed administrators are hastening the demise of these once-formidable campus watchdogs.
The AAUP report notes a “growing tendency” for administrations to conduct important business matters “behind closed doors.” Administrators slow-roll student journalists’ requests for public records. At some schools, newspaper advisers have been instructed to conduct “prior review” of student articles before publication, a precaution intended to ensure that anything that could gin up bad publicity never makes it to print.
The decline of college newspapers has taken place against the backdrop of a decades-old power shift in the American university. As the Johns Hopkins University professor Benjamin Ginsberg chronicles in his 2011 book, The Fall of the Faculty, administrative bureaucracies at American universities have grown much faster than the professoriate, a trend that Ginsberg decries.
“University administrators are no different than any other corporate executives or heads of government agencies,” Ginsberg said in an interview. “They’re engaged in constant spin designed to hide any shortcomings that they or their institution might have.”
Full article: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/08/death-college-newspapers/595849/?utm_sq=g6a9ilb3eb&utm_source=API+Need+to+Know+newsletter&utm_campaign=b39eb6eb5c-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_08_23_01_56&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e3bf78af04-b39eb6eb5c-45915123&utm_content=Articles
Nothing is more empty and more dead, nothing is more insultingly insincere and destructive than the vapid grins on the billboards and the moronic beatitudes in the magazines, which assure us that we are all in bliss right now.
|Facebook executives tell me they’re hiring seasoned journalists to help curate a forthcoming “News Tab” that they hope will change how millions get news.
News Tab, a personal passion of CEO Mark Zuckerberg, is also an effort by Facebook to develop a healthier relationship with publishers, many of whom have had their business models destroyed by social platforms.
Campbell Brown, Facebook’s head of news partnerships, said: “Our goal with the News tab is to provide a personalized, highly relevant experience … The majority of stories people will see will appear in the tab via algorithmic selection.”
Last year, Facebook killed Trending Topics, populated by contractors, after being accused of bias.
What’s next: A News Tab test for 200,000 users will begin in October, with a rollout to all U.S. users early next year.
‘The Wall Street Journal reported that the largest partners will be paid millions of dollars a year.’
‘A small team of journalists will pick stories for a Top News section.’
The Newseum displays more than 2,000 newspapers from around the world? Check out the front pages each day on their website.
How an Oregon Rancher is Building Soil Health—and a Robust Regional Food System
Fourth-generation rancher Cory Carman holistically manages 5,000-acres which serve as a model for sustainable meat operations in the Pacific Northwest.
Carman Ranch began as a few hundred acres Carman’s great-great-grandfather Jacob Weinhard—nephew to the legendary Northwest beer brewer Henry Weinhard—bought for his son Fritz in the early 1900s. Under Carman’s watch, the operation now spans 5,000 acres of grasslands, timbered rangeland, and irrigated valley ground nestled against the dramatic peaks of the Wallowa Mountains. Hawks, eagles, and wildlife greatly outnumber people in this isolated northeastern corner of the state, originally home to the Wal-lam-wat-kain (Wallowa) band of the Nez Perce tribe.
Distinct from most cattle operations in the U.S., Carman’s cattle are 100 percent grass-fed well as grass-finished. (The term “grass-fed” is not regulated, so it can mean that animals have only been briefly pastured before they’re sent to a factory feedlot to be finished.) The ranch primarily produces cattle and pigs, which it mostly markets to wholesale accounts, though it sells a lesser amount of meat as “cow shares”—or quarters of beef ranging from 120 to 180 pounds purchased directly by consumers.
Equally if not more important to Carman, however, is the focus on what she calls the “holistic management” of her land. This involves constantly moving the cattle and paying careful attention to the rate of growth of the animals and grasses. By this system, the steers select the forages they need to grow and gain weight, and the grasses get clipped, trampled down, and fertilized with manure, resulting in fields that are vibrant—they retain water, resist drought, contain abundant organic matter, which contributes nutrients and carbon, and are highly productive without the addition of fertilizer.
Mid-Sized Farms Are Disappearing. This Program Could Reverse the Trend.
A new ‘Ag of the Middle’ program helps small producers scale up so that they can compete in a food system designed to benefit larger farms.
“If we don’t invest in beginning farmers and the advancement of our family farms, and if we don’t put checks on increasing consolidation in agriculture, we’re going to be at risk of losing the ag of the middle entirely,” said Juli Obudzinski, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Interim Policy Director, in a recent statement. “Seventy-five percent of all agricultural sales are now coming from just 5 percent of operations.”
Over the years, a number of experts have written books and formed think tanks to address agriculture’s shrinking middle, but as many of the men and women running the remaining mid-sized farms are looking toward retirement, the most important question may be how to best help farmers like the Menchinis grow to take their place.
The Ag of the Middle Accelerator Program from Portland-based nonprofit Ecotrust aims to do just that. The two-year program helps smaller farms, ranches, and fishermen grow to gross between $100,000 to $3 million. And it hopes to build a model that can be borrowed and reproduced all around the country.
Expanding The Shrinking Middle
While there are no hard and fast rules dictating farm size, mid-size operations tend to be regional, somewhat diverse operations that negotiate prices with their customers in restaurant, retail, or at institutions, while large farms are typically less diverse, operate globally, and make millions selling to processors, brokers, or distributors for a price that is set by the market.
12-Year-Old Crime Reporter Gives Commencement Address at West Virginia University Media School
The Daily Beast
“Her speech moved on to some of the journalism lessons she’s learned throughout her young career. Hilde Lysiak reminded graduates to “keep your ledes tight… talk to real people,” and “trust no one.” “And most importantly of all, stay laser focused on the truth,” Lysiak said. “If you do these things, I believe that history will look back on this moment not as the last dark days before the profession of journalism died, but as the new beginning.”
On her Orange Street News website you can read and listen to Hilde Lysiak’s full commencement speech. Here are a couple of excerpts:
Talk to Real People
Politicians and law enforcement can be great sources of information.
But my best stories never came from a press release — they came from biking down my main street, knocking on doors, and talking to the real people.
Who are the real people?
These are the small business owners. That group of old people who hang out at the coffee shop. Or just that nice neighbor man who is raking leaves.
It is here, buried in the nosey lady next door or at the church dinner, where the real nuggets of gold can be found.
Real people have real stories.
And if you take the time to listen, you would be amazed at what the real everyday people know.
Look — readers are smart. More often than not when given the right facts they will come to the right conclusions.
That’s the power of the truth. The power of facts.
And THAT is the REAL super power of a reporter.
Which leads me to my next point —
9) Don’t Mix Politics and Reporting —
Look — I believe the future has never been brighter for reporters.
Think about it. Has there ever been a time when more people wanted or needed the news more than at THIS very moment right now?
Because of the internet, people from all around the world can access information anytime and anywhere and all from the screen of their smartphone.
This isn’t a good thing.
This is a great thing.
Each one of these people is a potential subscriber to the Orange Street News.
Oh but I know what the skeptics all say, that newspapers might get online readers, but they don’t make money anymore.
To answer that claim, I’d like to point them to the only newspaper that exclusively serves the people of Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania.
I’m proud to say that the newspaper I’m the publisher of, the Orange Street News, DOES make a profit. And I do this while also publishing all my stories online for free and without accepting paid a single dollar in advertising. In fact, my print subscribers are enough for me to pay for all of my expenses including printing along with a few upgrades.
Orange Street News
The Cleveland Plain Dealer
A Pew Research Center analysis of Bureau of Labor statistics from 2008 to 2017 found overall newsroom employment dropped nationally by 23 percent and in newspaper newsrooms employment dropped by 45 percent. More than 2,400 media jobs have been eliminated so far this year, according to Business Insider.
“After months of negotiations with the newspaper’s union, The Plain Dealer is expected to lay off 14 journalists today as the 180-year-old institution downsizes.“
“The Guild said in a statement that The Plain Dealer had a unionized staff of 340 journalists two decades ago. That soon will be reduced to 33. “Many of our members volunteered for layoffs to save the job of another, which speaks volumes about the respect those in our union have for each other,” Christ said. “We find some relief that editor George Rodrigue allowed members to volunteer for this layoff.”
“(The cuts are blamed) on the continuing decline in advertising revenue that has battered virtually all mass media, including television, radio and digital-first news organizations such as cleveland.com.
“Another brutal day for journalism.”
by, Tom Jones
“Gannett began slashing jobs all across the country Wednesday in a cost-cutting move that was anticipated even before the recent news that a hedge-fund company was planning to buy the chain.”
A Hedge Fund Known for ‘Milking’ Newspapers
Takes Aim at GannettBy
Does Journalism Have a Future?
In an era of social media and fake news, journalists who have survived the print plunge have new foes to face.
The New Yorker
Between 1970 and 2016, the year the American Society of News Editors quit counting, five hundred or so dailies went out of business; the rest cut news coverage, or shrank the paper’s size, or stopped producing a print edition, or did all of that, and it still wasn’t enough.
Between January, 2017, and April, 2018, a third of the nation’s largest newspapers, including the Denver Post and the San Jose Mercury News, reported layoffs.
Media companies that want to get bigger tend to swallow up other media companies, suppressing competition and taking on debt, which makes publishers cowards. In 1986, the publisher of the San Francisco Chronicle bought the Worcester Telegram and the Evening Gazette, and, three years later, right about when Time and Warner became Time Warner, the Telegram and the Gazette became
“We are, for the first time in modern history, facing the prospect of how societies would exist without reliable news,” Alan Rusbridger, for twenty years the editor-in-chief of the Guardian, writes in “Breaking News: The Remaking of Journalism and Why It Matters Now.”
The big book that inspired Jill Abramson to become a journalist was David Halberstam’s “The Powers That Be,” from 1979, a history of the rise of the modern, corporate-based media in the middle decades of the twentieth century. Halberstam, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1964 for his reporting from Vietnam for the New York Times, took up his story more or less where Villard left off. He began with F.D.R. and CBS radio; added the Los Angeles Times, Time Inc., and CBS television; and reached his story’s climax with the Washington Post and the New York Times and the publication of the Pentagon Papers, in 1971.
In 1969, Nixon’s Vice-President, Spiro Agnew, delivered a speech drafted by the Nixon aide Pat Buchanan accusing the press of liberal bias. It’s “good politics for us to kick the press around,” Nixon is said to have told his staff. The press, Agnew said, represents “a concentration of power over American public opinion unknown in history,” consisting of men who “read the same newspapers” and “talk constantly to one another.”
The present crisis, which is nothing less than a derangement of American life, has caused many people in journalism to make decisions they regret, or might yet. In the age of Facebook, Chartbeat, and DT, legacy news organizations, hardly less than startups, have violated or changed their editorial standards in ways that have contributed to political chaos and epistemological mayhem. Do editors sit in a room on Monday morning, twirl the globe, and decide what stories are most important? Or do they watch DT’s Twitter feed and let him decide? It often feels like the latter. Sometimes what doesn’t kill you doesn’t make you stronger; it makes everyone sick. The more adversarial the press, the more loyal DT’s followers, the more broken American public life. The more desperately the press chases readers, the more our press resembles our politics.
This book by Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols (2011) is an important read as pretext to Lapore’s piece.
“Journalism cannot lose 30 percent of its reporting and editing capacity and continue to provide the information needed to maintain a realistic democratic discourse, open government and outlines of civil society at the federal, state and local levels.”
The United States is not experiencing a brief recession for journalism as the silliest commentator continue to suggest; newsrooms will not be repopulated, let along restored to their previous vigor, with an economic recovery. Instead it is an existential crisis, one decades in the making and as we argue heron, it goes directly to the issue of whether this nation can remain a democratic state with liberties and freedoms many take for granted.
The crisis is right here, right now and unless there is forceful policy intervention, an unacceptable circumstance will grow dramatically worse.
In our view the evidence is overwhelming: If Americans are serious about reversing course and dramatically explained and improving journalism, the only way this can happen is with massive public subsidies.
The market is not getting it done, and there is no reason to think it is going to get it done. It will require a huge expansion of the nonprofit news media sector as well. It is imperative to discontinue the practice of regarding journalism as a “business” and evaluating it with business criteria. Instead, embracing the public good nature of journalism is necessary. That is the argument we make in this book.
If the U.S. government subsidized journalism today at the same level of GDP that it did in the 1840’s, the government would have to spend in the neighborhood of $30-35 billion annually. Subsidies are as American as maple pie; indeed, our democratic culture was built on them.
We met with a group of exceptional journalism students wo had read the book and wanted to talk about our proposals. They especially liked our proposal for a ‘Journalism for America’ initiative that would provide young people with stipends to cover underserved communities in the United States. By the end of the dinner they had framed out a plan for linking the ‘Journalism for America’ initiative to the Peace Corps so that young journalists could cover an immigrant community in the United States for a year and then travel wit the Peace Corps to foreign lands with connections to the American communities.
We came away with confidence that, when this great debate opens up, as it has begun to do, American journalism and American democracy will flourish.”
Ed Madison and Ben DeJarnette (2018) write,
“Fundamentally, journalists and teachers have similar roles within a society. They exist to educate us so we can collectively move our communities forward. Yet crises within K-12 education haunt our society’s future prospects: if we’re not raising generations of young people who are thoughtful and informed participants in our democratic process, then the future of journalism–and democracy–is very dark indeed.
The objective is not to spawn future journalists; the intent is to support students with becoming what we refer to as informed thinkers. Educators often speak about cultivating critical thinking, yet the term remains as elusive concept that does not fully encompass the levels of student engagement that young people need to navigate effectively in this increasingly complex and nuanced world.
Informed thinking articulates a clearer method and result than does critical thinking. Students learn to distinguish fact from fiction and to detect biases and agendas.
Our need to improve education is not optional; it is an obligation we must embrace.”
Wonderful book for reference and U.S. history, by Jill Lapore.
Journalist Marguerite Martyn of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch made this sketch of herself interviewing a Methodist minister in 1908 for his views on marriage.
“The number of journalists killed worldwide in retaliation for their work nearly doubled this year, according to an annual report by the Committee to Protect Journalists.”
- “34 journalists were killed in retaliation for their work, … while at least 53 were killed overall. That compares to 18 retaliation killings among the 47 deaths documented by the committee in 2017.”
- “[J]ournalists have died in combat or crossfire, or on other dangerous assignments. The deadliest country for journalists this year has been Afghanistan, where 13 journalists were killed.”
- “[T]he imprisonment of journalists has [also] been on the rise.”
“Media freedom group Reporters Without Borders said … the U.S. made it into the top five deadliest countries for journalists this year for the first time, with six dying, including four who were among five people killed by a gunman who opened fire in the offices of Maryland newspaper Capital Gazette.”
The Fresno Bee and the War on Local News
Local newspapers like The Fresno Bee have long been an endangered institution in America, and that was before California Rep. Devin Nunes began waging a public campaign against his hometown paper. Zach Baron spent time with the reporters fighting to keep news alive in an age when the forces they cover are working equally hard to destroy them.
“In October, the University of North Carolina’s School of Media and Journalism released a study that estimated that a full 20 percent of all local newspapers have gone out of business or merged since 2004. Since then, an additional 1,300-plus communities in the United States have found themselves without any news source about their own city, town, or county. “Our sense of community and our trust in democracy at all levels suffer when journalism is lost or diminished,” the authors of the report wrote. “In an age of fake news and divisive politics, the fate of communities across the country—and of grassroots democracy itself—is linked to the vitality of local journalism.”
New owners of local news franchises are lest invested in local news: Industry economics have prioritized national news over local.
- A study from Duke University’s DeWitt Wallace Center for Media & Democracy earlier this year found that only 17% of news stories in a community are actually local, meaning they’re actually about or having taken place within a municipality.
- And less than half of the news stories (43%) provided to a community by local media outlets are original.
- This is often because holding groups are consolidating resources, forcing local reporters to focus on national stories that reach bigger audiences.
The rise of paywalls means that high quality information will funnel to elites: As the digital advertising landscape continues to evolve, it’s becoming evident that digital ad dollars will continue to flow primarily to tech platforms rather than news publishers.
- Because of this, publishers are setting up paywalls (subscriptions, members, etc.) to survive. And while more Americans say they are willing to pay for news, those with higher levels of education are more likely to do so. In all, 66% of adults with a college degree pay for news, compared to 43% of people with a high school diploma or less.
“There is a growing gap in public knowledge between the information-rich and the information-poor,” says Rodney Benson, chair of NYU’s Department of Media.
- Benson cites other Westernized countries that have less of an information gap because of widely-available publicly-funded broadcast television. Examples include the BBC in the U.K., SVT in Sweden or ZDF/ARD in Germany.
What’s next? The death of local news in rural America is expected to accelerate.
“Increasingly, journalism serves as a powerful force for exclusion, for keeping quality information away from those who need it most, for discouraging anyone but the richest, most educated citizens from participating in the public conversation.”
— Rodney Benson, chair of NYU’s Department of Media Culture & Communication
Boston Globe Calls For Nationwide Media Response To Trump’s Attacks On The Press
Woodstein U: Notes on the Mass Production and Questionable Education of Journalists
“There is an inextricable link between repressing the freedom of the press and repressing the freedom for civil society to campaign for their rights. Both are an attempt to repress “inconvenient truths,” silencing protesting voices, and dimming the spotlight on illegal activity perpetrated by individuals, companies, and governments in power. And both deserve the world’s attention.”
The late Ben Bagdikian, who wrote a cover story for The Atlantic in March 1977 on the so-called Woodstein phenomenon, summed it up like this: Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein “were young, inexperienced, and not particularly promising in the eyes of their superiors. Working in a city and on a paper where the country’s most celebrated journalists were in top command, the two beginners beat them all and became national heroes … If they could do it, why couldn’t every high school student?”
But one experienced news director at a major television station said: “I prefer someone who majored in sociology or architecture or art history or psychology rather than somebody who spent a year or two learning how to put a film story together. One of our best reporters was a Rhodes scholar specializing in Florentine history. Given the nature of politics in this city. I don’t think that expertise in Machiavellian politics is such a bad idea.”
The people who hire journalists say they are divided on the value of journalism schools. But what about practitioners of journalism who, with the benefit of years of experience, can look back and judge for themselves? Did journalism graduates distinguish themselves over non-journalism graduates?
I wrote to fifty-three journalists who have won Pulitzer Prizes over the last ten years. Of those who responded. 75 percent did not major in journalism, most having degrees in English. English literature, history, or philosophy. Three did not attend college.
These Pulitzer Prize-winners were largely hostile to the idea of journalism schools and most of those approving a journalism degree specified that they favored a different undergraduate degree with journalism solely in a year of graduate work.
“THE POLITICS OF DISTRACTION” TROUBLE MEDIA STUDIES PROF. KEVIN HOWLEY
August 10, 2018
[A newspaper column from DePauw University Professor Kevin Howley takes media to task for being distracted from real issues by rhetoric.]
“Ever since [DT] announced his candidacy, the news media has followed his Twitter account with all the anticipation and credulity of a child on Christmas morning,” according to Kevin Howley, professor of communication at DePauw University. In a newspaper column, Howley continues, “Eager to publish — and profit handsomely from — the latest presidential tweet storm, an obliging press corps rewards Trump’s narcissism as it normalizes his authoritarianism.”
After the president tweeted last week that Attorney General Jeff Sessions should end the ongoing ngoing Special Counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, “Reporters and pundits spent the better part of the news cycle parsing the president’s words and debating whether this latest episode constitutes obstruction of justice,” Dr. Howley observes. “What’s most troubling about all of this is how willingly reporters and editors participate in Trump’s politics of distraction.”
In Howley’s view, the media’s myopic obsession with the president amount to “endless distractions that prevent us from addressing vital problems, like climate change and the health care crisis, that require immediate attention.”
The professor’s op-ed concludes, “The Romans knew a thing or two about the politics of distraction. They called it ‘bread and circuses.’ We call it ‘fake news.’ Despite, or perhaps because of the spectacle, the Roman Empire collapsed under its own imperious weight. Maybe there’s a lesson in that for the American Empire.”
You’ll find the complete text at the website of Indiana’s Kokomo Tribune.
Dick Cavett in the Digital Age
Stopping to smell the flowers with the last great intellectual talk-show host.
“Well, that’s an awkward subject matter for me, because I know all of them,” Mr. Cavett, 81, said on a recent sunny Thursday afternoon at his sprawling country house in Connecticut. “I’m not addicted to talk shows. God knows, I’ve spent enough time on them.”
As in Mr. Cavett’s 1960s and ’70s heyday, the country is in a period of turbulence, with racial tensions flaring, protests in the streets, and a fundamental ideological fissure. The hosts who have emphasized substance, who have “gone political,” have been praised and nominated for Emmys.
But “the next Cavett”? Is such a thing possible?
For three decades, Mr. Cavett was the thinking person’s Johnny Carson, embodiment of an East Coast sophisticate. He wore smart turtlenecks and double-breasted blazers, had more cultural references than a Google server and laced martini-dry witticisms into lengthy, probing talks with 20th-century luminaries including Bette Davis, James Baldwin, Mick Jagger and Jean-Luc Godard.
A Renaissance salon in a rabbit-ears era, “The Dick Cavett Show” was woke some 50 years before the term came into vogue. Viewers tuned in to see Muhammad Ali spout off about the Vietnam War or to see Yoko Ono in a 90-minute discussion with John Lennon.
While Mr. Cavett said he loathed Nixon’s politics, he called him “a brilliant, brilliant man” and was cordial to him in person. Years after Watergate, he remembers seeing the former president and his younger daughter, Julie, seated at an outdoor restaurant in Montauk, so he grabbed a menu and, posing as a waiter, began to list the specials: Yorba Linda cream pie, Whittier College soufflé.
Not his best material, Ms. Nixon told him.
The current president is perhaps the only celebrity over the age of 70 that Mr. Cavett has never met, other than being beaten by him to shrimp in a benefit buffet line years ago.
“I think all people who get to president of the United States must have something wonderful about them,” Mr. Cavett said in a mock-diplomatic tone.
“With that,” he added, “Cavett held a gun to his head and shot himself.”
“Republicans promote fear, not tax cuts, in key elections”
[From space to borders, ‘fear is a contagion in a democracy.’]
“FEAR: Trump in the White House,” by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and bestselling author Bob Woodward, will be published by Simon & Schuster on Sept. 11th.
- “Drawing from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand sources, contemporaneous meeting notes, files, documents and personal diaries, FEAR brings to light the explosive debates that drive decision-making in the Oval Office, the Situation Room, Air Force One and the White House residence.”
- Jonathan Karp, president and publisher of Simon & Schuster: “‘FEAR is the most acute and penetrating portrait of a sitting president ever published during the first years of an administration.”
- “FEAR is Woodward’s 19th book with Simon & Schuster, beginning with ‘All the President’s Men’ in 1974. Each of the previous 18 books he authored or co-authored has been a national nonfiction bestseller. Twelve of those have been #1 national bestsellers.”
The WashPost’s Manuel Roig-Franzia writes that the “expected tenor of the book is underscored by its unsettling cover, an extreme close-up of a squinty-eyed Trump depicted through a gauzy red filter.”“The hush-hush project derives its title from an offhand remark that then-candidate Trump made in an interview with Woodward and Post political reporter Robert Costa in April 2016.
“DT said: “Real power is, I don’t even want to use the word: ‘Fear.’
“Woodward … has privately described the remark as ‘an almost Shakespearean aside.'”
Hope Reese, JSTOR Daily
The American philosopher Martha Nussbaum’s new book, The Monarchy of Fear, examines the politics of primal fear in the 2016 election.
In November 2016, the American philosopher Martha Nussbaum was in Tokyo preparing to give a speech when she learned of the results of the U.S. presidential election. Worrying about the implications of Trump’s victory, Nussbaum, who has long studied the philosophy of emotions, realized that she “was part of the problem.”
The examination of her own reaction resulted in Nussbaum’s latest work, The Monarchy of Fear––part manifesto, part Socratic-style dialogue about the large role that fear plays in our current political era and why it represents a serious danger to democracy. Nussbaum has explored a range of emotions in her work, and this book, she tells me, makes the case that “anger, disgust, and envy…are poisoned and made more disruptive by fear.” Fear, Nussbaum argues, is both a primal emotion, an impulse felt by infants, and an emotion shaped by social context as we become older. Fear is asocial, narcissistic––and often misguided. When we fear others, Nussbaum says, we are often not taking facts and information into account––and we are often perceiving dangers that don’t exist.
“The nature of fear is that it’s very volatile and it’s very easily hijacked by rhetoric.”
The list of what ails the U.S. politically today is long and complicated, with problems as different as vast economic inequalityand gerrymandered congressional districts. But if we’re honest with ourselves, many of the country’s most serious problems exist within us, in the hearts and minds of its people. We shelter ourselves from perspectives and facts that disagree with our own. Our politics seem more rooted in contempt and schadenfreude than empathy and reason. Politicians exploit racial, ethnic, and class divisions, leaving many Americans feeling even more targeted and disenfranchised. And a foreign adversary disseminates false information through social media because it believes that Americans cannot (or won’t really care to) distinguish reality from manipulative fiction.
Those are shortcomings in our skills and dispositions. Do public schools have a role to play in developing them? We believe they do. Schools, more than any other public institution, are charged with preparing students for the responsibilities of civic life. Parents play a critical role, too, but schools are better positioned to ensure that all children have a core set of experiences. This includes developing skills that might not be on parents’ radar, like how to evaluate news disseminated over social media. Believing that schools ought to sharpen students’ civic skills and dispositions isn’t, as Finn suggests, a product of political correctness run amok, nor is it an inherently left-of-center idea. Americans have long seen this kind of thing as a core function of schools, and even Milton Friedman’s argument for vouchers is built on a notion that schools ought to instill a common set of values.
Perhaps Finn’s critique is that teaching facts is the way to develop civic skills and dispositions, or that students develop these skills and dispositions without schools teaching them explicitly. Perhaps rather than directly teaching news and media literacy or providing students with opportunities to engage in and experience the political process, schools should stick to teaching facts and modeling nice behaviors. We see that as a missed opportunity.
Hannah Arendt Explains How Propaganda Uses Lies to Erode All Truth & Morality: Insights from The Origins of Totalitarianism
In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and nothing was true… The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness.
The result of a consistent and total substitution of lies for factual truth is not that the lie will now be accepted as truth and truth be defamed as a lie, but that the sense by which we take our bearings in the real world—and the category of truth versus falsehood is among the mental means to this end—is being destroyed.
“We too,” writes Jeffrey Isaacs at The Washington Post, “live in dark times”—an allusion to another of Arendt’s sobering analyses—“even if they are different and perhaps less dark.” Arendt wrote Origins of Totalitarianism from research and observations gathered during the 1940s, a very specific historical period. Nonetheless the book, Isaacs remarks, “raises a set of fundamental questions about how tyranny can arise and the dangerous forms of inhumanity to which it can lead.” Arendt’s analysis of propaganda and the function of lies seems particularly relevant at this moment. The kinds of blatant lies she wrote of might become so commonplace as to become banal. We might begin to think they are an irrelevant sideshow. This, she suggests, would be a mistake.
Ben Smith, BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief
“This Is What It Was Like Learning To Report Before Fake News Was The Biggest Problem In The World
As a young reporter in Eastern Europe in 2001, I expected to witness the “end of history” and the flowering of democracy. That was just one of the mistakes I made.
I recognized myself in Suzy Hansen’s recent book on the delusions of our generation of Americans abroad, Notes on a Foreign Country.
“I would never have admitted it, or thought to say it, but looking back, I know that deep in my consciousness I thought that America was at the end of some evolutionary spectrum of civilization, and everyone else was trying to catch up,” she wrote.
There’s an axiom in reporting — crystallized by Janet Malcolm in The Journalist and the Murderer — that at the core of journalism is betrayal. I thought that’s what I’d done to Shydlovski. And I’ve thought a lot about the balance of responsibility to your sources and to your readers.
I had left Belarus on an overnight train the day after the election, and crossed the Ukrainian border on the morning of Sept. 11, as clear a day in that region as it was in New York. That afternoon, I sat in a Kiev newsroom watching my past assumptions about American power crumble, and walked outside to watch Ukrainians lining up at exchange bureaus to turn in their dollars. The story moved on.
Kozak, though, stuck around; he’s still working on the Lukashenko project from his desk in Foggy Bottom. And his own experience, he said, had taught him not to trust confident judgments about the future of an authoritarian.
“You get that blithe assumption that the status quo will always remain — or that this guy is so bad he’s got to go,” he said. “Neither are necessarily true, nor necessarily false.”
And Kozak is right: The main lesson I should have learned was about making predictions, about trusting the confidence of my American culture and of official sources on both sides, of imagining I knew more than I did. Even in the era of Steven Spielberg’s The Post and of a kind of glorification of the work of journalists, good reporting doesn’t offer easy lessons. It’s an uncertain business, and a necessarily anarchic one. Now I’m glad I wrote Shydlovski’s story, not despite the fact that I didn’t know where it would lead, but because of it.”
The Rise of ‘Fake News’ is Producing a Record Number of Journalism Majors
Applications have jumped at journalism schools across the country. After five years of “consistent” application numbers, Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism saw a 10% increase for the 2017-2018 school year, a spokeswoman said.
News organizations including The New York Times and The Washington Post have said they’ve seen spikes in subscriptions since President Donald Trump’s election.
The Wall Street Journal, which is owned by MarketWatch’s parent company News Corp. NWSA+0.92% has also added subscribers, now totaling more than 2.2 million, including print editions. The Journal added 118,000 digital subscribers between December 2016 and March 2017.
[Shared by the Aspen Institute]
Ben Schreckinger had just experienced the dinner most journalists would die for — especially in light of recent events — and still he was seriously considering law school.
The intrepid young reporter had spent the summer of 2013 as a fellow of the GroundTruth Project, a program to provide young journalists with foreign experience. In Schreckinger’s case, that meant traveling north up the Burma Road through Myanmar to report on the country’s reopening. Yet even as Schreckineger and his fellows were sharing a meal with freedom fighter–turned–lawmaker and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, he remained undecided — until GroundTruth founders Charles Sennott and Kevin Grant found him in the hotel pool later that night.
The nonprofit GroundTruth Project is devoted to narrative storytelling around the world. Its new offshoot, Report for America, is designed to reignite local journalism in the U.S.
“We were talking over a beer and Charlie made me promise that I would give journalism two more years,” Shreckinger, the political correspondent for GQ magazine, tells OZY. “I said, a year — that I would do another year.” It took two before Schreckinger went to Politico, where he covered the Trump campaign and then wrote for the publication’s magazine — and he still took the Law School Admission Test. But in the end, “I owe it all to that promise I made to Charlie in that pool in Burma.”
Now Sennott and Grant, former editors of the news website GlobalPost, want future Schrekingers in places like Youngstown rather than Yangon. Starting in early 2018, Report for America, a spin-off of the GroundTruth Project, plans to grant about 1,000 early-career journalists fellowships over the next five years to work for depleted news organizations in undercovered regions of the U.S. Think Teach for America with a press pass.
THE AD-SUPPORTED, FOR-PROFIT MODEL FOR JOURNALISM IS ON ITS WAY OUT — 95 CENTS OF EVERY [AD] DOLLAR SPENT IS GOING TO GOOGLE OR FACEBOOK.
KEVIN GRANT, REPORT FOR AMERICA EXECUTIVE EDITOR
“Although the shrinking of newsrooms is primarily financially driven, even when local newsrooms do have the budget to hire, they have a tough time recruiting and retaining talent,” Grant says. “Our DNA is global — we’ve been pursuing the big stories around the world — but last year around election time we realized our own country was in crisis. Much as the way we would respond to a crisis in Egypt, we needed to respond to the one in the U.S.”
Hammered by the decline of print advertising, local and regional newspapers have been hemorrhaging jobs for years. A 2015 study by the American Society of News Editors reported that there were 32,900 journalists at nearly 1,400 daily newspapers — a 10.4 percent one-year decline, and down from a peak of 56,900 in 1990. (In the past two years, ASNE declined to release employment figures because of a lack of reliable data.) The remaining jobs, and new ones from digital outlets, are concentrated in coastal cities: The share of American reporting jobs that were in New York, Washington and Los Angeles went from 1 in 8 in 2004 to 1 in 5 in 2014, according to federal government figures. Even in New York, local journalism took a significant blow last week when popular websites DNAinfo, Gothamist and their offshoots were shut down by billionaire owner Joe Ricketts, in part because the journalists voted to join a union.
“The ad-supported, for-profit model for journalism is on its way out — 95 cents of every [ad] dollar spent is going to Google or Facebook,” Grant says. “We found this with GlobalPost before GroundTruth and have the personal experience, as well as the personal sting.” GroundTruth’s solution to keep emptying newsroom cubicles full? Foundation money.
GroundTruth started as a nonprofit division of GlobalPost in 2011. In 2015 — the year after its correspondent James Foley was beheaded by ISIS terrorists in Syria — GlobalPost was acquired by Boston public media producer WGBH. Public Radio International and other public journalism brands started picking up stories from GroundTruth, which is backed by the likes of the Ford Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation and the Henry Luce Foundation.
While GroundTruth publishes on international platforms, Report for America is locally driven. It will connect young, aspiring journalists with newsrooms that request the help. RFA will pay half of a fellow’s $40,000 salary package, with the newsroom and local donors picking up the rest. The fellow will work in the local newsroom for one year; the newsroom picks up more of the tab if it keeps the journalist longer.
ProPublica, the Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative news site, and other organizations have started similar partnerships. ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network funds salary and benefits for reporters at up to six partner news organizations in cities with populations of less than 1 million.
Substantial questions remain about whether this model is sustainable. More than half of Teach for America recruits leave their initial placements in low-income schools after two years, and only 14 percent remain in their original schools by their fifth year. RFA’s backers don’t proclaim that they will save journalism, just as Teach for America can’t save education and the Peace Corps hasn’t brought about global unity. But GroundTruth did save both Schreckinger and Qainat Khan from law school.
Khan, a native of Tanzania who bailed on Northeastern Law after a year, is now on the road with GroundTruth’s Crossing the Divide project, assisting five early-career journalists from five states to report stories related to a larger national theme. “Local journalism is like providing a public service, and for me, it’s about doing meaningful work — to encounter people I would have never had a reason to encounter,” Khan says. “I’m not an economist and I don’t deal with the business side. But it makes sense to share the risk and share the cost. Perhaps collaboration will save local newsrooms. Otherwise, who are you competing with? It’s like a race to the bottom.”
Incredibly well reported and researched. And deeply moving.
First aired on 9.25.17
‘Now What Am I Known For?’ Trying to Find Oliver Sipple’s Legacy
by Latin Nasser
Our latest episode tells the story of Oliver Sipple, a Vietnam vet who went for a walk one day, and ended up saving then-President Gerald Ford from an assassin’s bullet. A day later, renowned gossip columnist Herb Caen – in conjunction with the activist Harvey Milk – outed Sipple as gay. Sipple hadn’t told his family. The revelation made national news and he eventually sued several newspapers for invading his privacy.
Trying to capture something so evanescent as a reaction to a headline forty years after the fact is no small challenge, but we started calling up some organizations we thought might be able to help. Turns out, we didn’t have much luck. But in all those calls, we did talk to two people who shared what Sipple and his story meant to them. And – although we had to cut them from our story for time – we still wanted to share snippets from those conversation.
More on reporting privacy with a focus on the digital age and the ease of exposing privacy with massive and often debilitating effects.
What is ‘doxing’?
Or that man who was wrongly identified as the Boston Marathon bomber?
These were all examples of how making someone’s personal, and sometimes private, information public on the internet led to intense harassment.
Today, each of the cases could easily be termed a form of doxxing—shorset for “dropping documents.” In the last few years, doxxing has increasingly been used as an online weapon to attack people. People’s “documents”—records of their addresses, relatives, finances—get posted online with the implicit or explicit invitation for others to shame or hector them.
But while doxxing may seem both creepy and dangerous, there is no single federal law against the practice. Such behavior has to be part of a wider campaign of harassment or stalking for it to be against the law.
This week I wrote about “doxxing” among the more extreme elements of the country’s political left and right, a world of zealotry and paranoia and anger and worry. Over the course of my reporting, the subject of my article got doxxed herself.
It was all fascinating and disturbing, and I think leaves people, myself included, with a lot to think about concerning doxxing—its effectiveness and appropriateness both. Reporters, after all, have been doing a form of doxxing for decades.
But to hope of thinking clearly about doxxing, it always helps to better understand it and its practitioners.
So, how do doxxers dox? They use public records, like property records, tax documents, voter registration databases; they scour social media, real estate websites, and even do real-life surveillance to gather information. Then, they publish the information online.
For some, doxxing is morally troubling. Law professor Danielle Citron is one. “It provides a permission structure to go outside the law and punish each other,” she says. “It’s like shaming in cyber-mobs.”
Then, there is the matter of doxxing the wrong person.
Here’s an example: After the infamous “Unite the Right” protest in Charlottesville, an attendee wearing an “Arkansas engineering” shirt was identified as Kyle Quinn, a professor at the University of Arkansas. Except Kyle Quinn wasn’t in Charlottesville. That didn’t stop the internet, and so when “Kyle Quinn” was doxxed as one of those torch-bearing protesters in Charlottesville, Quinn spent a weekend in hiding due to the amount of online abuse he subsequently received. The real protester, a former engineering student named Andrew M. Dodson, later apologized.
In some cases, people doxxed after taking part in white supremacist marches have been arrested, lost their jobs, or allegedly been disowned by their families.
Other experts question whether doxxing white supremacists is a useful tactic. “Is this an effective means of challenging racist views?” ask Ajay Sandhu and Daniel Marciniak, researchers at the University of Essex in the United Kingdom. They argue that doxxing simply isolates people, forcing them into smaller parts of the internet. “You don’t really challenge them, you allow them to exist in those isolated spaces,” Sandhu says.
How do you protect yourself from doxxing? The short answer is: You probably can’t fully. But we have a few tips that will help make the information you want kept private more secure.
‘When we fiercely hate one another, we make ourselves vulnerable to propaganda and demagogues. Hate blinds people to the truth.’
Jimmy Carter’s advice for President Trump: “Keep the peace, tell the truth”
From Maria Popova/Brainpickings
‘Fear & Loathing in Modern Media’
“There is no such thing as Objective Journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms.” -Hunter S. Thompson
So much for Objective Journalism. Don’t bother to look for it here — not under any byline of mine; or anyone else I can think of. With the possible exception of things like box scores, race results, and stock market tabulations, there is no such thing as Objective Journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms.
If you consider the great journalists in history, you don’t see too many objective journalists on that list. H. L. Mencken was not objective. Mike Royko, who just died. I. F. Stone was not objective. Mark Twain was not objective. I don’t quite understand this worship of objectivity in journalism. Now, just flat-out lying is different from being subjective.
Popover: ‘Flat-out lying, in fact, is something Thompson attributes to politicians whose profession he likens to a deadly addiction. In Better Than Sex: Confessions of a Political Junkie, the very title of which speaks to the analogy, he writes:’
Not everybody is comfortable with the idea that politics is a guilty addiction. But it is. They are addicts, and they are guilty and they do lie and cheat and steal — like all junkies. And when they get in a frenzy, they will sacrifice anything and anybody to feed their cruel and stupid habit, and there is no cure for it. That is addictive thinking. That is politics — especially in presidential campaigns. That is when the addicts seize the high ground. They care about nothing else. They are salmon, and they must spawn. They are addicts.
A Savvy News Consumer’s Guide: How Not to Get Duped
Well news fans, to mix metaphors, the ball is now squarely in your court.
“Fake news” is everywhere. For instance:
- Millions voted illegally for Hillary Clinton.
- Protesters were paid to disrupt Trump rallies.
- Pope Francis endorsed Donald Trump.
- And one that turned up just days before the election: Clinton was behind the murder-suicide of an FBI agent involved in her private email debacle.
That’s just a partial list of “stories.” All unequivocally false.
And now, there’s a “fake news” story with real-life consequences: a 28-year-old man fired an assault rifle inside a DC pizzeria recently after reading an outlandish story linking the restaurant and (why not?) Clinton to a child sex-trafficking ring.
There is nothing new about “fake news.” What is different today are the vast social media networks that allow all information — minor or major — to zip around the internet in nanoseconds without regard to truth or importance.
The proliferation of news consumption on social media means Americans are dealing with a firehose of information with little curation or verification. By age 18, according to a 2015 study by the Media Insight Project, 88 percent of millennials get news regularly from Facebook and other social media. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly half of all adults get their news from Facebook, which is currently struggling with how to handle the thorny issue of vetting fake news without violating First Amendment rights.
All of this means that when it comes to determining fact from fake and understanding how one’s own biases affect how news is accessed, processed and shared, the onus in today’s unfiltered media world is irrevocably on the news consumer.
The days when the mainstream news media were trusted gatekeepers who only published or aired deeply reported stories are long over. Each of us must act as our own editor, adopting the skills and taking the time (yes) to determine the real deal. One of the key newsroom axioms to adopt: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.” In other words, the more you are inclined to believe something, the more you should be skeptical.
The failure to do this is why, no matter how rigorously mainstream news outlets fact-check false stories or scrutinize Donald Trump’s statements, it often doesn’t matter. Liberals and conservatives believe what they want no matter how far-fetched. It’s known as confirmation bias. People search out information that confirms or reinforces what they already think. All too often, they are not open to information that should cause them to question those beliefs.
Research shows that when people are confronted with information that contradicts what they believe, our capacity to reason often shuts down! In 2008, I wrote about confirmation bias for NPR. Nothing has changed. In fact, Americans have gotten more entrenched in their beliefs and their unwillingness to absorb information that contradicts or complicates their beliefs:
Philo Wasburn, a Purdue University sociology professor who co-wrote a book on media bias, knows this well. He told me (in 2008) that research going back to the 1960s shows how difficult, if not impossible, it is to change people’s central core beliefs.
“When people are really committed to some ideological position, especially with politics, even if you present them with empirical evidence that supports the opposite of what they believe, they will reject it,” said Wasburn. “Core beliefs are very, very resistant to change.”
There already are efforts underway to educate the next generation on how to navigate news. The News Literacy Projectis a nonprofit dedicated to educating students in middle and high school on how to accurately sniff out the truth. The Center for News Literacy at Stony Brook University works around the world providing tools to develop smarter news consumers.
The need for such education is clear.
A recent Stanford University study found that 82 percent of middle schoolers did not know the difference between a real news story and an ad that clearly stated it was “sponsored content,” basically unedited advertising.
Those results are no surprise to the eight-person team at the News Literacy Project. Alan Miller, a Pulitzer-Prize winning investigative reporter, started it in 2008 after leaving the newsroom to teach teens critical thinking skills. Beginning with schools in New York City and around Washington, DC, the project has expanded to Chicago and Houston. In one New York City school, high school seniors didn’t know Osama bin Laden was dead or that US forces had killed him, according to Miller.
“Students need to be able to understand newsworthiness, sourcing, documentation, fundamental fairness and the aspiration of minimizing bias in a dispassionate search for truth,” wrote Miller in a journal article for the National Council of Social Studies. “They also need to be familiar with concepts of transparency and accountability.”
This is our moment.
— ALAN MILLER, THE NEWS LITERACY PROJECT
After a presidential election in which “fake news” played such a prominent role, the need for news literacy has never been greater.
“The nature of the presidential campaign combined with the recent disclosures of the prevalence and power of ‘fake news’ have underscored the urgency of teaching news literacy to the next generation,” said Miller. “I wish I could say I was prescient and knew how great the need would be eight years later. But as a prospective donor said, ‘The Zeitgeist has come to you.’ This is our moment.”
In eight years, Miller’s project had worked with several hundred educators and 25,000 students. To dramatically extend its reach nationally, the project in May launched the checkologyTM virtual classroom, a cutting-edge resource that teaches the core skills and concepts for making sense of news and information.
“As many as 675 educators in 41 states and Washington, DC have already registered to use it with more than 62,000 students,” said Miller. “We expect those numbers to grow exponentially.”
While baby boomers now miss the days when CBS’ Walter Cronkite was the most trusted man in America, the problem with “fake news” isn’t going away any time soon. Buzzfeed, which has been a leader in unmasking fake news under the brilliant media whiz Craig Silverman, released a Dec. 6 study showing most Americans who see “fake news” believe it.
So what can you do?
Slow down. Don’t reflexively pass on something. Start by always employing critical thinking skills. Be skeptical, not cynical. Expect to be fooled. Be vigilant. Don’t make sweeping generalizations. Examine news stories on a case-by-case basis.
A savvy news consumer’s responsibility is to learn how to discern credible information from opinion, sponsored content, “fake news,” viral rumors, clickbait, doctored videos or images and plain old political propaganda. Here are some tips on how:
1. Consider the source.
- Is it a site you are familiar with? If not, check the URL. Watch out for URLs with .co added to what looks like a mainstream news site. For example, many have been fooled by a site that looks like it’s ABC News but it’s not: abcnews.com.co
- Also watch for sites that end in “lo” like Newslo. “These sites take pieces of accurate information and then packaging that information with other false or misleading “facts” (sometimes for the purposes of satire or comedy),” according to Merrimack College Professor Melissa Zimdars, who has made a specialty of studying “fake news.”
- Read the “About Us” section. Does it seem credible? It too may be made up.
- Is there a way to contact the news organization?
- Does it have a link to its editorial standards? Like PBS does.
- How credible does the website look? Is it screaming ALL-CAPS? Are there distracting gizmos for you to click on and win $10,000? Exit, immediately.
2. Read beyond the headlines.
Too often we read an outrageous headline that confirms our biases and quickly pass it on. Don’t. Read deeper into the story and ask:
- How many sources are there? Is there documentation or links to back up the claim? Could you independently verify the contents? In most mainstream media stories, people are quoted by name, title and where they work (although sometimes they are quoted anonymously), and there are links to reports or court documents.
- Search the names of people, places or titles in a story. For example, the false story about Clinton being behind an FBI agent’s murder-suicide, said it took place in Walkerville, Maryland. There is no such place. There is a WalkerSville. Tricky.
- Check out a far-fetched quote by copying and pasting it into a search engine. Anyone else have that?
- Check out the author’s name. Search it or click on it. Has he or she written anything else? Is it credible?
- Is there any context included in the story? Does it seem fair? Are there opposing points of view?
- Drill down to find out who is behind the site —especially if it’s a contentious issue.
3. Check the date.
Too many times, a story is recycled with a new exaggerated headline. You’d be surprised how many times people die. In July, I got an email that famous journalist Helen Thomas had died. I started to forward it but something didn’t seem right. Why? She had died three years ago.
4. Double check suspicious photos.
This is fairly easy to do by right-clicking on a image and the doing a Google search. Photos of Hillary Clinton stumbling back in February were recycled closer to the election to give the impression she was sick.
Several other helpful sites can assist:
5. Check your biases.
Know your own biases. Try taking Harvard University’s Project Implicit bias test.
6. Learn from a wide variety of sources.
- If you lean left, watch Fox News, read the Wall Street Journaleditorial page, Weekly Standard, National Review and Reasonmagazine. Be aware and skeptical of what’s being said on Alex Jones, Rush Limbaugh and Breitbart.
- If you lean right, tune in Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. Pay attention to Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now! While the left doesn’t appear to have as many well-established (and popular) conspiracy-theory, faux-news peddlers, the same goes for what you might hear on the other side. Be skeptical: If it sounds too good to be true, it bears checking out.
- Or watch more middle-of-the-road news on PBS’ NewsHour. Listen to NPR.
- Check out Media Matters, which monitors conservative media and the Media Research Center, which monitors the mainstream media.
If you walk away with one useful piece of information, always ask this question: How do you know that?
Do it all with a healthy skepticism. Every story you agree with isn’t necessarily so. Every story you disagree with is not necessarily biased either. Be open to views you don’t agree with.
Verify, verify, verify. And keep honing your skills.
- The News Literacy Project’s How to Spot Fake News
- Merrimack College Professor Melissa Zimdars’ “False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and/or Satirical ‘News’ Sources”
- Factcheck.org’s How to Spot Fake News
- Craig Silverman’s Five Telltale Signs of an Online Hoax
- First Draft News.com provides an excellent guide to navigating the news online.
Free Press fights for your rights to connect and communicate.
We’re working to create a world where people have the information and opportunities they need to tell their own stories, hold leaders accountable, and participate in our democracy. We fight to save the free and open internet, curb runaway media consolidation, protect press freedom, and ensure diverse voices are represented in our media.
We believe that change happens when people have a real voice in the political process. To that end, we mobilize our growing base of 900,000 activists to sign petitions, meet with their elected officials, attend rallies and town-hall meetings, write letters to the editor, and take part in other targeted actions. We also craft policy proposals, conduct research, testify before Congress and argue in court for policies that serve the public interest.
The companies trying to kill Net Neutrality, crush competition and build media monopolies have way more money than we do. But we have two powerful things on our side: people … and a plan. Click here to join the movement.
Free Press is completely independent: We don’t take a single cent from business, government or political parties and rely on the generosity of individual donors and charitable foundations to fuel our work.
To learn more about our work, click here.
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Throughout our 13 years of existence, we’ve never faced a moment like this one.
With the grave threats to immigrants, people of color, Muslims, women, the LGBTQI community and others, we’re joining with our allies to counter the Trump administration and RESIST.
Now more than ever we need a free and open internet, journalism that holds politicians and corporations accountable and protection from unwarranted surveillance by government and law enforcement agencies.
With the Trump team already on the record attacking Net Neutrality, press freedom and privacy protections, we’ve got our work cut out for us.
But we promise you this: We will never — ever — stop fighting for your rights to connect and communicate.
Building and sustaining this level of opposition will require an immediate influx of cash to expand our lobbying, legal and organizing power. That’s where you come in: We can’t do it without your help.
We’re supported solely by gifts from individuals and charitable foundations. Unlike most groups, we don’t take a cent from business, government or political parties, so your contribution makes a big difference — and helps us stay independent.
We need to raise $100,000 by Dec. 31. We’re making good progress, and a generous donor will match all donations up to $16K to help us get closer to our goal. Donate today!