Crime wave narratives are a central talking point in election campaigns and across much of mainstream media coverage, but experts say crime is a complicated subject flooded with misinformation and racism — starting with how crime is defined and which kinds of crime are reported. Police chiefs developed a system of reporting crime statistics over 100 years ago that includes cases like murder, robbery and auto theft but excludes white-collar crimes such as tax evasion and wage theft. Critics say the system is biased against poor people and brown and Black residents, and that crime is used “as a shorthand for fear of other people, especially people of color.”
Discuss: According to the NPR piece, why are crime trends so complicated? How can data be biased? Have you observed a “frenzied narrative around rising crime” in news reports or other media? How do you define crime? How is crime defined in your community? How do you think crime statistics should be reported? Why do you think some politicians spout misinformation about rising crime rates?
Idea: Invite a journalist from NLP’s Newsroom to Classroom volunteer directory to discuss how their newsroom approaches crime coverage. How do they report on crime statistics? Why is this topic newsworthy? What standards do they follow to make sure this coverage is accurate and fair?
YES: States typically need days or weeks to tabulate and certify official vote counts. NO: Official vote counts have not been finalized and released by any state on election night “in modern history.”YES: News organizations often project winners in particular races on election night when provisional results are conclusive. NO: Delays in states releasing official vote counts are not evidence of malfeasance or fraud. YES: Election workers in key battleground states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin are prohibited by state law from opening mail ballots before Election Day (with rare exceptions), which means certifying the final vote takes longer than in some states.
NewsLit takeaway: Many election integrity deniers approached the midterm elections with a determination to find “evidence” of fraud. In the absence of any actual proof of significant malfeasance (after all, voter fraud is very rare), they fabricated it by — among other things — rewriting history. This brazen lie appeared to be accepted uncritically and amplified by people manipulated into the false belief that U.S. elections are routinely corrupt and ballots are unprotected. That core conviction, which has congealed into conventional wisdom among election deniers, is the foundational falsehood of election conspiracy theories. But even a cursory online search shows official vote counts extended well beyond Election Day in every election in modern history. And even if delays in releasing results were a new phenomenon, there is no plausible way one party could use such delays to engage in election fraud.
NO: NBA basketball superstar LeBron James did not announce via Twitter that he was requesting a trade from the Los Angeles Lakers. NO: MLB player Aroldis Chapman did not announce that he was re-signing with the New York Yankees. NO: Nintendo USA did not post an image of Mario using an obscene gesture. NO: Former President George W. Bush did not post crass comments about the Iraq War. YES: A blue check mark on Twitter previously indicated that an account was verified as genuine and belonged to the named person or entity. YES: A number of verified Twitter users changed their handles and profile names after the new verification feature was announced, then posted impostor tweets to highlight its pitfalls.
NewsLit takeaway: Changes to Twitter’s verification system spurred a spate of impostor social media posts and left many users confused about how they could tell the real accounts from the fake ones. As Twitter’s policies evolve under Elon Musk’s leadership (on Nov. 11 he paused a policy to allow users to purchase verification symbols), it is important to be extra cautious while skimming social media. Here are a few tips to verify Twitter accounts, whether they carry a blue check mark or not.
Check creation dates and follower accounts. Large, established accounts (such as those belonging to LeBron James or Nintendo) will likely have a long history of tweets and a follower count in the millions. The impostor accounts posing as them will not.
Double-check sources. If an account posts something newsworthy, look to see if any credible news sources have picked up the story. Search the poster’s name on Twitter to see if they actually have multiple accounts and look at Twitter handles and creation dates.
As always, make sure to think critically about any content you encounter on social media before clicking like or share. Impostor accounts may be difficult to detect at a glance, so take the time to differentiate official accounts from fake ones.
You can find this week's rumor examples to use with students in these slides.
NBA star Kyrie Irving remains suspended from playing after he posted a link to an antisemitic video on Twitter. Irving has a history of social justice activism but in recent years has also captured headlines for amplifying dangerous or scientifically disproven conspiracy theories — such as suggesting the Earth is flat.
Check out this collection of newspaper front pages of key races in the midterm elections in states like Pennsylvania, Georgia and Arizona. One challenge for newspaper editors: writing headlines on election night that held up the next morning.
In a cautiously optimistic assessment, researchers say mis- and disinformation swirling on social media platforms about the election process “failed to take root” during the midterms.
A team of academics argues that critical ignoring, or choosing what information to ignore, is a necessary skill in resisting misinformation and navigating our crowded digital landscape.
A roundup of diversity reports from major media companies shows most continue to be majority white, including at the manager level. One notable exception is the Los Angeles Times, where 53% of overall staff are Asian, Black, Hispanic or Latino.
Take a look at these helpful tips from the Washington Post for avoiding misinformation, including slowing down and making a collection of trusted news sources.
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