A recent Washington Post report investigating the person behind Libs of TikTok — an anti-LGBTQ+ Twitter account that is highly influential among right-wing media — is prompting a debate over journalism ethics and anonymity online. Some have accused the Post of inappropriately “doxxing” the creator of the previously anonymous account and are criticizing the reporting tactics of journalist Taylor Lorenz, who knocked on doors as part of her story research. But, as Poynter’s Tom Jones points out, seeking subjects of news coverage to reach them for comment, including through door knocking, is “Journalism 101.” If Lorenz "didn’t exhaust all efforts to reach" the person behind the account, Jones notes, “you could say that would have been journalistically irresponsible.”
Discuss: When is revealing the identity of someone on social media justified? To what lengths should journalists go to contact people they are reporting on before a piece is published? How does providing story subjects with an opportunity to comment or respond to allegations relate to journalism standards like fairness and accuracy?
Dig deeper: Use this think sheet to further explore journalism ethics and anonymity online.
How did video of a nurse fainting become the fixation of a viral conspiracy theory? In Tiffany Dover is Dead*, part of a new NBC News podcast series, senior reporter Brandy Zadrozny traces how Dover’s experience fainting on camera after receiving her first COVID-19 shot in December 2020 soon spiraled into an online obsession, with many falsely claiming she had died. Zadrozny shines a light on the dangers of misinformation and shows how one person’s story was “hijacked by total strangers” to sow doubt about vaccine safety. (The first three episodes — Needle In, The Bog and Who Does That? — are now available.)
Discuss: Why do conspiracy theories appeal to people? Why do you think some people remain convinced that Dover is dead when we know she’s not?
NO: The inflation rates in this meme shared by Eric Trump are not accurate. YES: The meme slightly understates the actual rate of inflation for some of the Trump years listed and significantly overstates the rate of inflation for the two Biden years. YES: According to The Associated Press, many economists cite government spending, including President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, as one of the factors that has “caused inflation to run higher than it otherwise would.”
Figures published in a USA Today graphic show the accurate rates of inflation from 2017 through March 2022, calculated by both monthly averages and year-end rates.
NewsLit takeaway: Viral rumors about rising costs strike a quick emotional chord with many people, often resonating with real concerns about household finances. This meme might also “feel true” to many people because it contains a seed of truth: Inflation has rapidly increased over the past year. But it’s always a good idea to check out viral memes about complicated issues to get a fuller picture — especially those that explicitly discourage further inquiry (“Nothing more needs to be said” and “The facts are clear”).
NO: The woman in this viral photo did not blow up 52 Russian tanks during the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. YES: This photo also appears in this March 2021 article published on the Ukrainian military’s news website, which identifies the woman as Maj. Victoria Palamarchuk, a military doctor. YES: Fact-checkers at The Associated Press confirmed these details elsewhereonline and contacted Palamarchuk’s mother, who said that the viral tank claim is a hoax.
NewsLit takeaway: Falsehoods touting alleged Ukrainian heroism have circulated online since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. While it’s impossible to know for sure where this particular falsehood originated, it’s important to be aware that people who use misinformation to “chase clout” and build influence online often target topics that invoke strong public opinions. Amid broad-based global support for Ukraine during this war, these types of hopeful, positive claims are optimized for quick likes and shares. However, they do not help or support Ukraine and may even bolster Russia’s attempts to cast a fog of doubt over all information about the war.
You can find this week's rumor examples to use with students in these slides.
A new open letter signed by dozens of organizations representing journalists is calling on the Pulitzer Prizes — one of journalism’s most prestigious awards — to help “improve the diversity and transparency in the news industry” by requiring news organizations to participate in an annual diversity survey (or similar industry data collection) in order to qualify for an award.
Old videos showing military conflicts, parades and even airsoft battles continue to proliferate on TikTok, where they are passed off as footage of the war in Ukraine, often for clout or for donations on fake livestreams.