A few days before the election, an extraordinary story popped up in hundreds of thousands of people’s Facebook feeds. This story was salacious. It was vivid, filled with intriguing details. There was a photo of a burning house, firemen rushing in. The headline read, “FBI Agent Suspected In Hillary Email Leaks Found Dead In Apparent Murder-Suicide.”
It was all fake. There was no FBI agent. There was no shooting. The site it was published on, The Denver Guardian, isn’t a real news source. It was one of many fake stories that play into conspiracy theories about the Clintons and it worked. There is one part of the article that was real: the ads. Someone was making money off this phony news article and dozens of others like it. Someone was making profit off a fake story that suggested a presidential candidate was a killer. Today on the show, we take this single fake news story and follow the clues all the way back. We follow the digital breadcrumbs until we find ourselves on a suburban doorstep, face to face with the man behind a bogus news empire run. Then he tells us his secrets.
Source: Episode 739: Finding The Fake-News King : Planet Money : NPR
It’s 25 minutes and worth your time.
The core challenge is there is a giant demand for “fake news”. People so wanted to believe these terrible things about Clinton that they sought them out. Any debunking just fed the conspiracy arc further.
Here’s a suggestion for NBC, though: How about celebrating this group of American gymnasts, perhaps the greatest ever, by explaining to Americans exactly what makes them so great? I’m not a lifelong gymnastics fan—true gymnerds refer to the rest of us as “Four-Year Fans”—but earlier this year I spent several months engrossed in the sport while writing about Biles. I now consider myself safely in the ninetieth percentile of gymnastics comprehension, meaning that I understand about ten per cent of what is going on. But every bit I’ve learned has made the sport wildly more interesting to watch. On Sunday, for instance, I watched the qualifying round with two Four-Year Fans and was able to pass along an insight that Biles’s coaches have pointed out many times, but that NBC didn’t. As good as Biles is on her world-beating Amanar—a vault in which she twists two and a half times while flipping through the air—she will never get a perfect score because of the tiniest flaw: she crosses her toes.
This is the kind of information we might expect to learn from NBC’s broadcasts. There’s no questioning the credentials of the network’s analysts: Tim Daggett won a team gold medal at the 1984 Olympics, and Nastia Liukin won the individual all-around in 2008. But their expertise is often muted by the strictures of a prime-time broadcast. “My producer always puts a note card in front of me, like, ‘Talk to Madeleine in Middle America, who doesn’t know gymnastics,’ ”
Source: Women’s Gymnastics Deserves Better TV Coverage – The New Yorker
This, all of this. The Olympics are a time when a bunch of unusual sports end up on the air. It is an opportunity to help us understand them and get excited about them. People get excited about things they understand, and can tell what a good / bad / great performance looks like.
I remember sitting in a hotel room in Sydney in 2000, because the Olympics actually started, watching a cricket match. I had no idea what I was watching. I turned to my friend Dylan and said “ok, we’ve been in Australia for a month, we’re going to figure this out.” And with a laptop up searching the internet while watching, we figuring out enough of the basics that we could see what a good or terrible performance looked like. And it was so much more interesting to watch.
“Boomerang kids: 85% of college grads move home,” blared a headline on CNNMoney.com. “85% of college grads return to nest,” echoed the New York Post. “Survey: 85% of New College Grads Move Back in with Mom and Dad,”said Time magazine’s website.
Recently, the 85 percent figure emerged in the presidential campaign, in an ad from the Republican group American Crossroads that blames President Barack Obama for the boomerang.
We rated the claim False, but as we dug into the number, we found the media had repeated it with little scrutiny. Journalists were content to copy a number from other news reports without verifying it — or even asking when the survey was conducted.
If the reporters had looked deeper, they would have found some oddities about the firm that claimed to have conducted the survey, a Philadelphia-area company called Twentysomething. The company’s website had an impressive list of staffers, but when we checked on them, we found several who either didn’t work for the company or appeared to be fictional.
The whole story is even weirder than you might imagine, and cane be seen over at Politifact. Moral of the story, news without public citations is suspect.
With all the crap wikipedia gets on accuracy, they are quite good about creating a culture of “citation needed”. We need more of that.
You’d think by that headline this was a zombie invasion, and not a snow storm. Then again, Samhain is only 7 hours away, so maybe they are on to something.
And now you can do things like go to page 2 of a story, or even use the search box, and not be assaulted by popups and half page expanding ads that push all the content off the page.
Having learned nothing from Balloon Boy, apparently cable news was all over turning contrails into ICBMs.
Lack of familiarity with the night sky has led a number of people in Washington state to call 911 for a UFO sighting. The police pulled out their binoculars, and correctly determined that it was Jupiter. This happens a lot when one of the bright planets (Venus or Jupiter) are near one of the horizons at sunset.
Jupiter is low in the East at sunset, and the brightest thing in the sky right now besides the Sun and the Moon. If you have a set of binoculars you can even see up to 4 moons lined up on either side of it. It’s really pretty spectacular, and definitely worth doing wherever you live. In a telescope you can see atmospheric bands on the planet, and we had a great view of that last night.
“This nation was founded on the principle that the government must never choose between religions or favor one over another. The World Trade Center site will forever hold a special place in our city, in our hearts. But we would be untrue to the best part of ourselves and who we are as New Yorkers and Americans if we said no to a mosque in lower Manhattan.
“Let us not forget that Muslims were among those murdered on 9/11, and that our Muslim neighbors grieved with us as New Yorkers and as Americans. We would betray our values and play into our enemies’ hands if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else. In fact, to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists, and we should not stand for that.
“For that reason, I believe that this is an important test of the separation of church and state as we may see in our lifetimes, as important a test. And it is critically important that we get it right.
His speech has shown up many places, this transcription is on Salon. It’s really worth reading in it’s entirety.
I’m sure this will end up in an arms race at some point, but for now, I’m really enjoying it.
I finally have the answer as to whether I would pay for news on the web, and the answer is yes. Last night after reading the 5th zero content vapid gadget news story that was front page content on wired.com, I realized how much I really appreciate the quality bar that’s been set over at Ars Technica.
While most web outlets seem to be degrading in the content they put out there, Ars seems to just be getting better. They have some quite in depth writing on most of the science and tech space, and aren’t afraid to dive deep into subjects with original research, not just falling back on the lazy opinion model that most others have. I also realized that while not having wired around would mean nothing to me, loosing Ars would be something I’d actually really miss.
Ars’s pay model is simple. If you by a premier account ($50 / year, so roughly magazine cost), you stop being presented with ads on their site, you get access to stories slightly ahead of the public site, and you get personalized rss feeds which provide full stories (their free rss gives you just the first 2 or 3 paragraphs). There are some other benefits, but the full rss and just knowing I’m helping to keep Ars around is what I care about.
That second point is key. If the news industry wants people to actually pay for things, they need to stop racing to the bottom on cost, and start racing to the top on quality.