Washington Times Polar Bear Story

How to know what to trust in the age of fake news

With so much noise and misleading information out there, how can we make sure what we read is reliable?

In the era of Trump, journalism has become a fragile and imperiled enterprise. When we can’t tell “fake news” from actual events or “real news”from satire, the whole project of democracy is on shaky ground. But I haven’t caved to cynicism yet. As a media studies scholar once upon a time, I learned a thing or two about how to critique the news. And while that task has become exponentially more taxing in recent times, with the explosion of false stories going viral on social media and audiences willing to jettison critical thinking or a belief in facts, it’s still possible to vet a news story. I invite you to see how it’s done.

Here’s the backstory: I posted this article, a Jan. 9, 2017 story from the New York Times Science section entitled “Human-Driven Global Warming is Biggest Threat to Polar Bears, Report Says,” two days ago. Continue reading

Politics: Democrats vs Republicans

Obama, Holder to lead fight against gerrymandering

Competition is good. Free markets are good. Give everyone a shot at the brass ring. Get rid of regulations that stifle competition and opportunity.

Thus spake many a Republican (and often a Democratic) politician, saying they only want to hand business interests in America a clear road to economic growth and apparent prosperity for all.

So why do those same politicians, at federal and state levels, balk at attempts to introduce competitiveness in elections?

What, you say? American state and federal elections are not competitive? Continue reading

Build the Wall Trump

Narcissism, promises, and job approval: They might not mix well for President Donald

An inability to focus on consequences that do not center on him. Check. An absence of empathy for others. Check. A lack of impulse control coupled to a need to lash out at perceived offenses (and offenders). Check. A vainglorious view of himself. Check. An ever-present, almost childlike, need for praise. Check.

Build the Wall TrumpPresident-Elect Donald is a narcissist. That’s the conclusion of Alan J. Lipman, a clinical psychologist, chronicled in a commentary on CNN. But we already know that, don’t we? We’ve seen it repeatedly at his rallies and in his Twitter rants. But so far, he’s insulated himself from the consequences of his narcissism. Even past Republican critics, such as the speaker of the House, and big-money donors who did not support his candidacy are falling in line, creating an imaginary unity.

President-Elect Donald’s egregious behaviors have become acceptable because so many legislators and donors have too much at stake (power, influence, government contracts, etc.) to suggest the emperor-elect is naked.

But there’s one judge of presidential behavior, character, and leadership President-Elect Donald has yet to face — George Gallup’s question:

Do you approve or disapprove of the way ____ is handling his job as president?

Continue reading

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Remembering 2016: the year when everyone died

No, famous people won’t stop dying on January 1. But we lost too many bright lights this year and we hope that 2017 will be better. Here’s a list of noteworthy people who died in 2016.

For the past several months a lot of us have been saying we can’t wait for this damned year to be over.

2016 gave us the worst election season I can remember, and every ten minutes or so another beloved artist would die, it seemed. Any year that gives us Donald Trump and takes Muhammad Ali, David Bowie, Prince in return has done more damage than some decades.

No, people aren’t going to stop dying at the stroke of midnight tomorrow. Continue reading

hillary-clinton-weak-men-fear-strong-women

ALL OF THE ABOVE: The REAL reason(s) Clinton lost the election

Analyzing Clinton’s loss: can we PLEASE let go of our compulsive binary either/or thinking?

hillary-clinton-weak-men-fear-strong-womenEver since the stunning outcome of the election several weeks ago we have been subjected to one analysis after another as to why Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump. Dozens and Dozens. Hell, make that hundreds and hundreds, probably. I’m seeing more of these stories in my Facebook feed these days than I am pictures of cute kittens. Telling us what happened and how it happened has become a whole new industry, it seems.

Some of these stories are insightful. Some tell us what we already know, although the authors often try and package their reasoning as something more original than it is. And some aren’t helpful at all. But it seems like the one thing each author has in common is a need to cast his or her reason as the reason. Continue reading

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Boulder, Colorado Bureau of Investigation planning new DNA analysis in JonBenet Ramsey case

Can new procedures tell us who killed the child pageant queen? Were there multiple murderers?

JonBenet Ramsey

JonBenet Ramsey

According to NBC News, “new DNA testing is planned in the unsolved murder of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey.”

The news was first reported by NBC affiliate KUSA in Denver, Colorado, and by the Boulder Daily Camera. The two news outlets did a joint investigation in October which pointed to a variety of potential flaws in the interpretation of the DNA evidence in the case.

Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett confirmed in a statement to NBC News Wednesday that his office had met with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, which he said will be conducting “some further testing of the DNA evidence in the Ramsey case, as well as other cold case homicides and pending investigations,” in a new lab with new testing procedures.

There is now doubt as to the conclusions reached by former Boulder District Attorney Mary Lacy in her 2008 letter clearing the family. Specifically: Continue reading

faux-journalism

Fake news. Who should be the judge?

ZOMG!!1! I saw this meme, or was it a tweet? Or a meme of a tweet? on the internet today, and it looked really urgent and seemed legit and everything, because it had quotes. And it told me to share, so here!! !

trump-bannon-quote

Continue reading

CATEGORY: UnitedStates

A letter to my nieces, November 2016

By Amber Healy

CATEGORY: UnitedStatesIn the early afternoon of Election Day 2016, I traded messages with a good friend, heart swelling with hope.

“To think … maybe, just maybe, the kiddos we love who are little right now …they’ll never know a world where a person of color or a woman couldn’t be president.”

Within hours, I watched the country turn a deeper red, crimson spreading from coast to coast, revealing the true colors of the United States.

Despite winning two million fewer votes from the American people than his opponent, Donald Trump secured more than the required 270 Electoral College votes to secure the presidency, effective January 2017.

It was not supposed to be this way. Continue reading

faux-journalism

Today in faux journalism: don’t look now, but did Fox just punk Breitbart?

The New York Times, Breitbart, FOX News and more: clown cars on parade.

fauxnewsUpdate 11/13/2016 11:26 AM MST: the letter has been found. Ms. Ember tweeted this morning, at 6:57 AM (probably unrelated to my post):

The letter was not an apology.

The link is indeed to nytimes.com. It’s now text, not graphical. Quote searches actually do turn it up in Google searches with NYT getting top billing.

At that level, this is a non-story. Maybe it was always a non-story. If that’s the only interesting part, then you may wish to enjoy your time browsing other content because this will take about 1600 words to disappoint you.

If, instead, you’re looking for a cautionary tale on the hazards of social media sharing, horse race reporting, poor sourcing in online news articles, and perverse misreadings of the same letter, then by all means read and share. It’s perfectly okay to tell your friends, “don’t be that guy,” while pointing in my direction. I’ll wear my scarlet letter with pride if it helps to stop smart people from doing dumb things just because the Internet is a free-for-all where, as with the polls, intelligence is no bar to participation.

As to whether the letter is an apology, that’s the job of the reader to decide. It doesn’t sound like one to me, especially coupled with the content of Sulzberger’s staff memo introduced herein. It’s a boast, a double-down, a strut, and a promise of more of the same.

Recently I urged readers to “buy a damned newspaper.” Today I add a caveat: “except that one.” Get all the free content you can out of them, but unless you’re a centrist who has been well served by the Old Gray Mare, one really has to wonder if keeping them in filthy lucre is really worth the political fallout of buying top-flight crossword puzzles and book reviews that are but props for pastel yellow journalism. Pastel? To the extent yellow journalism is characterized by crude exaggeration, that’s not NYT’s schtick. It’s what they underplay as part of their bias that makes them a menace to society.

—–

There is something fishy going on in the news at the moment. Surprise, surprise! Allow me to recount my Facebook adventure for your edification and amusement.

First, I noticed a Blaze article in my feed (yeah, I read all manner of stuff, but then I weigh it and note omissions…sometimes…because I’m fallible): New York Times publisher vows to ‘rededicate’ paper to ‘honest’ reporting after Trump’s big win.

They quote a letter, verbatim and in its entirety, from NYT Publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr, but without linking to it. Here’s the first graf of the article by Chris Enloe: Continue reading

Journalism

Action plan #1: buy a damned newspaper

Image1 for post Journalism in an era of onerous deadlines? Not so good anymoreUnless you’ve missed every headline and item in your social media feed, you might have noticed that there’s a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth today. That’s okay. Get it out of your systems. But for the love of all that you hold dear, try to keep it brief, okay? We need action more than tears. And we need it sooner rather than later.

But what action? Where do we start? Well, as a person with a long history of bitching and moaning instead of acting, I’ve had enough. I don’t want to keep being the person who shows up only to complain. So I’m going to start pitching ideas for action. Some of them will suck. Some will be amazing. They should all be prompts for you, Dear Reader, to do the same. Come up with plans for action. Do them. And pitch them to your friends and anyone else that will listen so they can do them, too.

So what’s this great first idea I’m pitching? Buy a damned newspaper. Continue reading

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The war over words

Politicians have always sought the power to control the meaning of language. But now this open warfare has raced past reprehensible to dangerous for democracy.

language-has-powerIn the vicious descent to American unexceptionalism that politicians and their rich supporters are hellbent on winning (common folk and consequences be damned), the election has become a continuing chase for the authority to control language.

That’s what modern power has become: the ability to define a word, and to prevent others from doing so. Politicians rarely make coherent arguments any more; they instead try to co-opt the meanings of words. That’s why debates have been nonsensical: Candidates may utter the same words, but the meanings they assign to those words are vastly different.

Consider just one particular word. Continue reading

Journalism

The Tiffany Martínez case and journalistic malpractice in the first degree

Journalism RIP: gone and apparently forgotten

Tiffany Martinez journalism malpracticeHere’s a sampling of the Google News headlines this morning for a search on [tiffany martinez]:

  • Professor Leaves Racist Note on Student’s Paper – Yahoo News-22 hours ago
  • The broader implications of unfairly accusing a Latina student of plagiarism – Inside Higher Ed-Nov 1, 2016
  • Professor accuses Latina student of plagiarism for using the word hence – The Grio-Oct 29, 2016
  • Latina accused of plagiarizing after using ‘hence’ in essay – New York Post-Oct 30, 2016
  • Latina college student is accused of plagiarism because she used the word ‘hence’ in an essay – Daily Mail-Oct 29, 2016
  • Latina College Student Used ‘Hence’ In Paper, Is Accused Of Plagiarism – Highly Cited-Huffington Post-Oct 28, 2016
  • A Professor Circled “Hence” On A Latina Student’s Paper And Wrote “This Is Not Your Word” – BuzzFeed News-Oct 28, 2016
  • Student accused of plagiarism by professor for using the word ‘Hence’ – Gistmaster (blog)-8 hours ago

Notice anything? Continue reading

Politics: Democrats vs Republicans

Resolved: that future presidential debates ought to use the Lincoln-Douglas format

Partisan discourse can’t sink much lower. Now is the time to resurrect a format that was made for political debates.

The third and final “debate” between presidential contenders Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is now mercifully in the rearview mirror, but like a direct hit from an aggrieved skunk, it might take weeks for the stink to fully die down. This trifecta of vitriolic spew has held a mirror up before the face of the American system of political discourse, and what we’re seeing is utterly wretched.

And for what? What have we learned? Did the debates make us smarter? Did it leave us more capable of rendering an informed decision? Did it shed light on the election and the best interests of the Republic?

The sad truth is that the truth is pretty sad. These charades, these lowest common denominator spectacles, these premeditated travesties of dishonesty and rhetorical misdirection, we call them debates but they are no such thing. A real debate between candidates would be a wonderful thing, though. Continue reading

Journalism

In just a decade, ‘content’ trumped ‘news’ (and those who reported it)

 Ten years has seen the evisceration of newsrooms; the alteration of form, function, and distribution of information; and the emergence of a distorted public discourse. Oh, joy.

Since 2007, I’ve written about the stark reductions in numbers of reporters and editors in America’s daily print newsrooms. During that time, I’ve witnessed more than 20,000 newsroom jobs vanish. Now, it seems, only about 30,000 men and women toil in those newsrooms.

MediaI chose toil deliberately. First, those who remain have had to meet the continued and unchanged corporate demand for product or content once produced by twice their number. Second, the job has changed: In addition to the still-present demand for print content, those 20,000 face the imposition of onerous digital deadlines and unbelievable expectations of quantity. Post so many stories a day, or an hour, they’re told. That, of course, has impacts on the quality of those stories.

For many, those who remain even have different titles — they are no longer reporters or editors. They have become “community content editors,” “content coaches,” “presentation team members,” “engagement editors,” “headline optimizers,” “story scientists,” or “curators in chief.”

Yes, the operations of those places once known as “newsrooms” are rapidly and radically changing. But that obvious observation obscures a few emerging realities about how information (once known as “news”) is crafted and distributed.

Continue reading

Woman-Power

Patriarchy in the news, 8/21/16

Woman-Power

I haven’t done one of these in a while, but there is so much out there.

First up, trending on Twitter is #thingsfeministmenhavesaidtome. There are surprises, but the golden oldies are well represented, such as these:

“You’re just assuming all guys are like that, which is pretty sexist.”
“Aren’t you generalizing men if you discuss patriarchy? Don’t alienate allies now.”
“I consider myself more of a humanist.”
“Just because women think something is sexist doesn’t mean it automatically is, you know.”
“I support feminism, but I think women need to lighten up.”
I guess a hashtag things”feminist”menhavesaidtome might not work as well.

Continue reading

CATEGORY: ScienceTechnology

Good science. Bad blogging.

CriticalThinking300Bad science journalism is almost as bad as bad science, perhaps worse in some ways, insofar as it may popularize error where there had been none before. Carping about bad science blogging, on the other hand, should probably be beneath me, at least most of the time, because hey, at least there’s folks trying, right? Isn’t this just another case of XKCD’s “someone is wrong on the Internet?

Well, here’s two examples. I’ll let the critical reader decided for themselves whether or not they serve to engender better critical reading more generally speaking. Continue reading

Here’s to Henry

Bukowski would have been 96 today…

How do I pay tribute to a man who both enriched and destroyed my life? If I had never read his work I’d be less of a boozer than I am, but also less of a human being. Charles Bukowski would have been 96 years old today, and I have praised and cursed his very existence with every gulp of cheap beer or sip of fine rum that I have ever taken.

(↑Kiyokawa, Tokyo 2012)

Continue reading

Journalism

CNN (and others) and its overuse of anonymity: There’s more to the story …

First, there’s this headline:

Secret Service spoke to Trump campaign about 2nd Amendment comment

CATEGORY: Journalism Then there’s this lede graf:

(CNN) — A US Secret Service official confirms to CNN that the USSS has spoken to the Trump campaign regarding his Second Amendment comments.

Then there’s this second graf that does not identify “the official”:

“There has been more than one conversation’ on the topic, the official told CNN.

Then there’s this fifth graf: Continue reading

CATEGORY: Baby Boomers

Judge not the group; rather, see the individual

By Carole McNall

ICATEGORY: Baby Boomers’m a female baby boomer.

Knowing that, what do you know about my politics and points of view?

Absolutely nothing.

But wait, you might argue: I know a couple of things that should allow me to predict what shaped your world view.

Really? Let’s test that theory.

Baby boomers are classically defined as those born between 1946 and 1964. That’s an 18-year span. Consider, for a moment, how different the world would look for people at varied points along that span.

John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. Continue reading