The Sift: 2022 Pulitzers | Hate in Buffalo | Unsafe baby formula tips


Teach news literacy this week
2022 Pulitzers | Hate in Buffalo | Unsafe baby formula tips

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Top picks

The 2022 Pulitzer Prize winners were announced May 9, offering a rich opportunity to explore exemplary pieces of journalism. The Washington Post won the public service category — widely considered the most prestigious award — for its coverage of the Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol. Ukrainian journalists were awarded a special citation “for their courage, endurance, and commitment to truthful reporting during Vladimir Putin’s ruthless invasion of their country and his propaganda war in Russia.” The awards also shined a light on the importance of local news organizations and the role they play in holding the powerful to account, with the Miami Herald, Tampa Bay Times, Kansas City Star, Houston Chronicle and a collaboration between the Better Government Association and the Chicago Tribune among those included in this year’s winners.
classroom-ready icon Dig Deeper: Use this think sheet to further explore this year’s Pulitzer winners and consider why these works represent excellence in journalism.
Authorities are investigating connections between the May 14 mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, and the “great replacement theory,” a racist, antisemitic ideology that festers in extremist echo chambers online and has seeped into mainstream political discourse. The shooting — which killed 10 people, most of them Black — was briefly livestreamed on Twitch before being taken down, but copies of the video continue to proliferate across social media.
Recent attacks and violence against journalists around the world are raising press freedom concerns, including in Mexico, where 11 journalists have already been killed this year. 2022 became the country’s deadliest on record for journalists after two media workers were killed in Veracruz on May 9. Elsewhere, on May 11, Palestinian-American journalist and longtime Al Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh was shot and killed in the West Bank. Palestinian authorities and Al Jazeera claim Abu Akleh was killed by the Israeli military, while Israeli officials initially blamed Palestinian militants, then reversed themselves and announced an investigation.
Should journalists be able to express personal views about the issues they cover? That question is at the heart of a renewed debate following the recent Supreme Court leak involving Roe v. Wade. Some newsrooms advised journalists to refrain from expressing their personal opinions on abortion to avoid accusations or perceptions of bias, while Rolling Stone magazine’s top editor Noah Shachtman told staffers “you don’t have to stifle your beliefs,” and said in a May 11 tweet that he didn’t “understand the logic of telling your staff to stay quiet while their rights are being taken away.”
  • Discuss: Can journalists express personal opinions without damaging people’s trust in the fairness of their journalism? What steps do journalists and news organizations take to minimize bias in news coverage?
  • Resource: “Understanding Bias” (Checkology virtual classroom).

Viral rumor rundown

Outdated and experimental homemade baby formula recipes are unsafe

 A Facebook post that says, “For anyone who knows anyone needing baby formula due to the shortage! A recipe from 1960 that I am willing to bet is healthier than what they’re making it with now.” The post includes a photo of an apparent hospital document  that lists the birth date, weight and length for a baby named “David James,” and then outlines a recipe for formula. The News Literacy Project has added a label that says, 'OUTDATED AND DANGEROUS.'

NO: It is not safe to use old or experimental recipes for infant baby formula, or diluted formula. YES: Unsafe and antiquated recipes for formula have gone viral across social media platforms during a national shortage of commercial baby formula. YES: According to experts who strongly advise against using D.I.Y. recipes, homemade formula typically contains inadequate essential nutrients and possibly dangerous bacteria and toxic levels of other substances like salt and water.

NewsLit takeaway: People often share misinformation with good intentions, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still harmful. Several homemade baby formula recipes circulated online in early May 2022, along with this widely shared photo. The user comments on these and other posts about the formula shortage recount personal anecdotes about having been raised on homemade formula, implying that the recipes are safe. But medical consensus on many health-related topics, including pregnancy and childbirth, have changed significantly since 1960 (the date on the recipe in the photo). For example, many doctors in the mid-1960s believed alcohol stopped premature labor and recommended women in preterm labor be given vodka and orange juice or alcohol through an IV. Remember: While it may be tempting to try health-related guidance you find on social media, especially in times of need, it’s always best to consult with your doctor.


Occupy Democrats push out-of-context celebratory photo of Justice Thomas and wife Ginni

A May 5 tweet from the verified account of Occupy Democrats that includes a photo of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas smiling with his wife Ginni, who appears to hold a bottle of wine. The tweet reads, “BREAKING: As American women despair about abortion rights being taken away from them, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife Ginni post a photo of themselves enjoying a $5,135 bottle of fancy wine. RT IF YOU THINK THAT THEY ARE A DISGRACE.” The News Literacy Project has added a label that says, 'OUT OF CONTEXT.'

NO: This photo of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, is not recent and was not taken as the Court is deliberating a case that could overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade abortion rights ruling. YES: The photo was posted online as early as 2018.

NewsLit takeaway: Hyperpartisan advocacy groups operate to promote a specific political agenda and sometimes put ideology before accuracy. Political posts designed to elicit outrage — also known as “outrage bait” — can be extremely effective at driving social media engagement and a widening circle of online supporters. It’s always a good idea to stay skeptical about divisive social media posts that provoke a strong emotional reaction, particularly when they resonate strongly with your politics and come from a partisan organization. In this case, people who oppose the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade may be especially vulnerable to reacting to this false claim too quickly. Finally, the fact that this post uses inflammatory language in all caps and explicitly asks people to retweet (“RT IF YOU THINK THAT THEY ARE A DISGRACE!”) are both red flags and indications that the tweet should be approached with skepticism.

Related: “Fact Check: Individuals Who Seek Or Get Abortion in Alabama Are NOT 'Thrown In Prison For Life'” (Christiana Dillard, Lead Stories).

Resource: Reverse image search tutorial (Checkology virtual classroom).

You can find this week's rumor examples to use with students in these slides.
The digital investigations group Bellingcat has been documenting Russian atrocities since 2014 — and is building a searchable online database of social media posts that capture human rights abuses in Ukraine.
Over 100 advocacy groups endorsed a letter urging major social media platforms to strengthen their policies to combat the spread of harmful disinformation in advance of the midterm elections.
Though Facebook announced last year that it would remove ad-targeting options that make it easy to isolate audience segments by such factors as race, religion, sexual orientation, political beliefs and health conditions, an investigation by The Markup found that many such categories are still available in its advertising marketplace.

Thanks for reading!

Your weekly issue of The Sift is created by Peter Adams (@PeterD_Adams), Hannah Covington (@HannahCov) and Pamela Brunskill (@PamelaBrunskill), and edited by Mary Kane (@marykkane).

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Check out NLP's Checkology virtual classroom, where students learn how to navigate today’s information landscape by developing news literacy skills.