Tag Archives: media

Dakota Pipeline Part 5: Jailing journalists and paying sock puppets


Photo of Sacred Stone Camp by Tony Webster, published under Creative Commons license.

As thousands of Native Americans gather in North Dakota to resist the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), local law enforcement has pushed back by arresting journalists covering the protests and the Sacred Stone Camp and by outright lies about the protests and protesters. In addition, misinformation and propaganda is flooding social media, posted through sock puppets and other sources. Continue reading


Filed under environment, human rights, media, race

Not really science and not really health

Does chocolate really help weight loss? Does aspartame cause seizures? Did an Italian doctor discover a simple operation to cure multiple sclerosis? Do dryer sheets cause cancer? The answer to all these claims is a resounding NO. So why do these, and hundreds of other phony health stories, continue to circulate? And how can you sort good health and science information from utter crap? Continue reading

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Not really the news: Outright lies and hoaxes

Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 10.46.01 PMDid President Obama really sign an executive order banning the pledge of allegiance in schools nationwide? Must be real — you can read it in abcnews.com.co. Oh, wait — that’s a phony news site, set up to steal the reputation of the real ABC News and get you to believe fake stories. Just like nbc.com.co or foxnews.com.co or cbs.com.co — all fake sites set up by the News Examiner, which also publishes phony news. Because theses “shill” sites look, at first glance, like legit news organizations, their phony news gets picked up and spread, often over social media and sometimes even fooling real news organizationsContinue reading


Filed under analysis, elections, media

Don’t believe everything you read: Phony news and how to spot it

Did you read about the world’s biggest baby, born in China, weighing 73 pounds? How about Pope Francis’s denunciation of Pokemon as the devil’s tool? Or about Donald Trump’s cousin leaving a statement for his obituary begging people not to vote for him? Or that Donald Trump says President Obama founded ISIS? Okay – the last one is unfortunately true, which shows how hard it can be to tell actual news from fiction and satire, this year more than ever.

I spend lots of time reading news, and I care passionately about sorting truth from lies. So I’m going to write a series of blog posts to share what I’ve learned over a lifetime of working at this Sisyphean task. Today: phony news sites. Next time: Satire beyond The Onion. After that: Outright lies and hoaxes. Finally: Not really science and not really health. Continue reading


Filed under elections, media, news

Munich, Kabul, Manbij: the calculus of carnage


Photo by L.C. Notaasen, published under Creative Commons license

Yesterday, an eighteen-year-old with a Glock pistol shot and killed nine people in a mall in Germany. Yesterday, a suicide bomber targeted a protest in Kabul and killed at least 80 people. The ISIS bomber targeted Shia Muslims, members of Afghanistan’s Hazara minority. Last Tuesday, an airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition in Syria killed families who were fleeing ISIS. The exact number of dead is disputed – 56? 85? 160? 212? The families, who included many young children, were fleeing ISIS when the coalition bombers mistakenly targeted them. Guess which of these three stories got the bigger headlines? Continue reading

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Who can you believe?


(CORRECTION 1/13/2016 – see below) Back in December, I talked to M.L. Kenney on her Consuming Media radio program on Macalester college radio. We started off with her question about whether the media is trustworthy. My take: The right response is not trust but a critical, skeptical stance toward both media and official/semi-official sources of information. A critical response goes beyond the automatic “I don’t believe you” to a more difficult attitude of thinking about who has furnished information, how reliable the source is, and what other sources say. Continue reading

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Need a little hope? Read on!

Teacher with shirtHad enough of this week’s death and horror? Here are six stories of hope and action, from Austria to California to Minnesota. Sometimes I need to focus on these stories to continue believing that each of us can make a difference. If you need that lift, too, read on. Continue reading

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Filed under immigration, media, race

MPR makes us all losers

MPR laid off nine news people yesterday. That’s nine full and part-time people from a full and part-time staff of 74, according to the Pioneer Press. For the news people leaving and the news people staying and for all of us who count on MPR for news, that’s a major blow.

Nick Woltman’s story in the Pioneer Press also aggregated tweets from MPR’s Bob Collins, which paid tribute to each of the nine employees. I couldn’t find any other new stories about the layoffs, which make Minnesota’s news landscape poorer and more barren. As Collins observed, “it is against the law of physics to remove creativity from a world and expect creativity to flourish in its place.” (By the way, if you don’t already follow Bob Collins on Twitter and on his News Cut blog, you should. Right now.)

All of the nine will be missed. I will especially miss Alex Friedrich, who reported carefully and caringly about Minnesota higher education, and Cat Richert, whose coverage of politics and fact-checking in Poligraph provide essential insights into how government works.

Friedrich and Richert represent a kind of reporting too often under-appreciated: covering a beat, getting to know the players and institutions, building a deep background and insight into the issues, which takes time on the job and can’t be easily replaced. Any shenanigans in higher ed or in the legislature will be harder to follow and harder to expose without their deep knowledge and careful reporting.

American Public Media, MPR’s parent company, signaled earlier this month that layoffs were coming. An internal memo said that changes would “expand our services in health, education and sustainability – adding to our current strengths in business and public affairs journalism, and classical and contemporary music.” Cutting to the bone does not accomplish that end.

Bob Collins got it right yesterday in his series of tweets about the layoffs.

Some layoffs apparently took place earlier in the month — I don’t know who those people were. You can go to the MPR pages of the people laid off yesterday, and read or view or listen to the work they have produced in the past. I hope they all land in places where they can continue to do good journalism work in the future. They will be missed.


Filed under media, news

Weaponizing Facebook

FB with gun

Want to shut down a news site? Facebook will help. A new Facebook “hoax button” lets anyone flag any news article posted on Facebook as false. The mechanism is the same as flagging a post as “annoying or distasteful” or pornography. Just click, and you’re done. Continue reading

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Following the numbers – not always easy, even for journos

When I read the Strib article on home health care overbilling, I recalled last year’s 60 Minutes exposé of highly-organized health care fraud in Florida, and tried to check back to see what has been done to investigate, prosecute, and stop the fraud. The first article that turned up was a May 6 CBS I-Team report from Florida, charging that “government investigators say CMS still can’t accurately track improper Medicare payments.” That sounded important, but the article itself was confusing, referring to the 60 Minutes report, quoting President Obama in a context that was not clear, and referring to “a new bill” to attack fraud. Continue reading

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