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"Fake News," Bad News Evaluation
Fake news may be a bad thing, but not all bad news reporting is "fake."
Most Students Don’t Know When News Is Fake, Stanford Study Finds (Wall Street Journal)
Some 82% of middle-schoolers couldn’t distinguish between an ad labeled “sponsored content” and a real news story on a website, according to a Stanford University study
of 7,804 students from middle school through college. The study, set for release Tuesday, is the biggest so far on how teens evaluate information they find online. Many students judged the credibility of newsy tweets based on how much detail they contained or whether a large photo was attached, rather than on the source.
How Fake News Goes Viral: A Case Study (NY Times)
Eric Tucker, a 35-year-old co-founder of a marketing company in Austin, Tex., had just about 40 Twitter followers. But his recent tweet about paid protesters being bused to demonstrations against President-elect Donald J. Trump fueled a nationwide conspiracy theory — one that Mr. Trump joined in promoting. Mr. Tucker's post was shared at least 16,000 times on Twitter and more than 350,000 times on Facebook. The problem is that Mr. Tucker got it wrong. There were no such buses packed with paid protesters. But that didn't matter.
Google & Facebook Take Aim at Fake News
Over the last week, two of the world’s biggest internet companies have faced mounting criticism over how fake news on their sites may have influenced the presidential election’s outcome. On Monday, those companies responded by making it clear that they would not tolerate such misinformation by taking pointed aim at fake news sites’ revenue sources.
In the War on Fake News, School Librarians Have a Huge Role to Play
To get a better idea of how we can fight misinformation, The Verge talked to Professor Nicole A. Cooke of the University of Illinois. Professor Cooke works in the University’s top-ranked School of Information Sciences, focusing on human information behavior, information literacy, and diversity in librarianship. We discussed why it seems to be getting harder and harder for people to keep track of the truth, what libraries are doing to help them, and what we all need to do going forward. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Tech Companies Debate How to Handle Fake News (45 min KQED Radio)
Forum discusses what Facebook and other social media companies should do to curb the spreading of fake news on their sites and whether the companies should intervene at all.
Six Questions to Tell What Media to Trust
From traditional news print sources to social media and email, ask these six questions to unlock whether something is trustworthy. It’s easier than you think, and they will make you a more critical thinker and save you from being misled.
This process of critical thinking about media is something we all do. When you decide what to click on, what to read, and when you lose interest and stop reading, you are making critical decisions about what matters and what you trust or what you don’t understand. These six questions are the same ones that editors and producers in the media world use to edit stories and make up web pages.
Adapted from: Americanpressinstitute.org
1. Type: What is the type of content?
Knowing what you are looking at is the first step to figuring out what you can believe. Is it a news story? Or is it an opinion piece? Is it an ad or what some people call native advertising produced by a company? Is it a reaction to someone else’s content?
2. Source: Who and what are the sources cited and why should I believe them?
The key question is, how do they know? If it’s not clear, you should be more skeptical. News content usually cites sources for the information provided. These are the people quoted, or the documents or reports or data being referred to.
- Sourceless News: Some news is actually “sourceless.” If the president says something on television or in public, the account may cite no source at all. It was a public event for all to see.
- The Journalist as Witness: The journalist or author could also be an eyewitness. In that case, the account may make it clear the author saw it but cite no one else.
- Credentialed Experts: In some cases, the author or journalist may have such obvious expertise or credentials that they are a credentialed author/source.
- Proximity of Knowledge: How well does the author/speaker know what they are talking about? Are they a first-hand eyewitness? Or is it second-hand? For example, in courtroom trials, only things that people saw for themselves are usually permissible as testimony, or if they are an official source, such as police spokesperson in which they may be basing what they say on multiple first hand witnesses.
- Distance in Time: Time is also a factor. Research shows the more time that has passed since an event, the more faulty memory is. Police investigators know this well. So ask yourself: how far in the past did this event occur before the witness was asked to recall it?
3. Evidence: What’s the evidence and how was it vetted?
Evidence is the proof that the sources offer for what they know. It overlaps with how close someone is to an event. But even highly credentialed sources may begin to speculate sometimes. They may be guessing. We should expect enough evidence to prove the case. We shouldn’t just take someone’s word. The more evidence the better. Ask if the evidence has been reviewed, how was it reviewed, and by whom. What is unknown, unanswered, unclear, should also be acknowledged.
4. Interpretation: Is the main point of the piece proven by the evidence?
Most media content offers a thesis, or main point, of some kind. Think about what conclusions are being drawn. Do they follow logically from what has been cited? Sometimes this is a matter of some conclusions making sense but others going too far. Are too many conclusions being drawn from evidence that doesn’t support all of them?
5. Completeness: What’s missing?
Most content should lead to more questions. If there was important information missing from the story, that is a problem. If something was explained so poorly that it wasn’t clear, that’s also a problem. If something was missing and the story explained why—this couldn’t be answered yet—that is a good thing. The point of any news content is not just to tell you something. It should be to create understanding and also to help you to react or take action. So sometimes what might be missing from a story or segment or piece of content is what you can do about it.
6. Knowledge: Am I learning every day what I need?
Think about what media you consumed. What have you learned? What did you read about? It can be hard to remember sometime, but try to jot down what information you consumed over a couple days. You might be surprised. It also might not have been done in a conventional way. Maybe it came through social media or conversation. This still counts as consuming news.
Other Things to Consider
Check your biases and consult the experts. We know this is difficult. Confirmation bias leads people to put more stock in information that confirms their beliefs and discount information that doesn’t. But the next time you’re automatically appalled at some social media post, take a moment to check it out. Some places to check include: FactCheck.org, Snopes.com, the Washington Post Fact Checker, and PolitiFact.com.
Tools and Resources to Spot False Information or Biases
"We are a nonpartisan, nonprofit “consumer advocate” for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. We monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases. Our goal is to apply the best practices of both journalism and scholarship, and to increase public knowledge and understanding."
One of the more prominent Internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation. The snopes.com website was founded by David Mikkelson, who lives and works in the Los Angeles area. What he began in 1995 as an expression of his interest in researching urban legends has since grown into what is widely regarded by folklorists, journalists, and laypersons alike as one of the World Wide Web's essential resources. Snopes.com is routinely included in annual "Best of the Web" lists and has been the recipient of two Webby awards. Each item investigated includes the claim and verdict at the beginning (false, unproven, true) as well as the origin of the claim.
Washington Post Fact Checker
In an award-winning journalism career spanning more than three decades, Glenn Kessler has covered foreign policy, economic policy, the White House, Congress, politics, airline safety and Wall Street. He was The Washington Post’s chief State Department reporter for nine years, traveling around the world with three different Secretaries of State. Before that, he covered tax and budget policy for The Washington Post and also served as the newspaper’s national business editor. This site uses Pinocchio symbols to indicate levels of false information.
PolitiFact is a fact-checking website that rates the accuracy of claims by elected officials and others who speak up in American politics. PolitiFact is run by editors and reporters from the Tampa Bay Times, an independent newspaper in Florida, as is PunditFact, a site devoted to fact-checking pundits. The PolitiFact state sites are run by news organizations that have partnered with the Times. The state sites and PunditFact follow the same principles as the national site. This site provides more variability into the "verdict" of statements made by politicians, such as half-true, compromise, mostly false, promise broken or kept, pants on fire, mostly true, and true.
A resource that identifies the biases of over 950 news media sources: Left News; Left-Center News; Center News; Right-Center News; Right News; Breaking News; Pro-science; Conspiracy-Pseudoscience; Satire/Fake News.
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Importance of Journalism (John Oliver)
In this lengthy YouTube video (19:22), comedian John Oliver of Last Week Tonight, humorously discusses the importance of journalism, and how heavily relied upon our society is upon it. Funding deficiencies have led to fewer reporters covering the state house, local issues, scientific findings, or the federal government. The Fourth Estate is a shadow of what it once was thanks to abundance. This was not what we thought would happen.