The Sift: New press freedom ranking | Roe v. Wade scoop | Bogus pregnancy test claim


Teach news literacy this week
New press freedom ranking | Roe v. Wade scoop | Bogus pregnancy test claim

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Top picks

Global polarization and rising political and social tensions are being exacerbated by the “news and information chaos” of online disinformation and propaganda, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and findings from its new press freedom ranking of 180 countries and territories.

The 2022 World Press Freedom Index classified the situation for journalism as “very bad” in a record 28 countries. Iran (178), Eritrea (179) and North Korea (180) ranked as the worst countries for press freedom, while Norway (1), Denmark (2) and Sweden (3) continue to be “a democratic model where freedom of expression flourishes,” RSF said in its overview of the annual ranking.

Divisions are deepening in democracies around the world — including the United States (42) — driven in part by media polarization as well as propaganda orchestrated by autocratic regimes, RSF noted. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “reflects this process, as the physical conflict was preceded by a propaganda war.”
classroom-ready icon Dig deeper: Use this think sheet to further explore RSF’s new press freedom ranking and examine the effects of “news and information chaos.”
Politico’s bombshell May 2 report containing a leaked draft of an opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court that would overturn Roe v. Wade sent partisan shockwaves across the country. News coverage of the report’s fallout quickly prompted a debate over whether newsrooms should focus on the possible impact of the draft ruling, or the leak itself. Politico’s reporting also raised important questions about the journalistic ethics of publishing the draft — several of which, Poynter’s Kelly McBride argues, remain unanswered, including a detailed explanation of why Politico is “so confident the document is real and how they made the decision to publish it.”
How is the war in Ukraine being portrayed by state-controlled television stations inside Russia? The New York Times reviewed more than 50 hours of footage and found baseless conspiracies and conflicting, “scattershot narratives” designed to confuse and overwhelm the Russian public.

Viral rumor rundown

No, home pregnancy tests don’t include a ‘Plan B’ pill

A still from a video posted to Facebook showing someone prying open a home pregnancy test to reveal what appears to be a tablet. Text over the video says, “Plan B inside pregnancy test, omg.” The News Literacy Project has added a label that says, 'DANGEROUS FALSEHOOD.'

NO: Home pregnancy test kits do not contain a secret “Plan B” emergency contraceptive pill inside. YES: Home pregnancy test kits include a desiccant tablet that absorbs moisture to keep products dry but, manufacturers warn, should not be ingested.

NewsLit takeaway: Videos that test “amazing” tricks and “life hacks” are popular, but often don’t tell the whole story. While some “life hack” tests are benign, amateur claims about health and medical issues should always be approached with extreme skepticism — and verified with trusted health authorities.


The BBC did not report that Poland is sending troops to Ukraine

A Facebook post that includes a video still showing a line of troops marching. There is BBC branding in the corner and the text “ordered the army to prepare for an invasion of Ukraine.” The News Literacy Project has added a label that says, 'FALSE: IMPOSTER CONTENT.'

NO: The BBC did not report that Poland’s top general ordered the country’s army to prepare for an invasion of Ukraine, as this video suggests. YES: This is a doctored video that has been digitally altered to impersonate BBC branding.

NewsLit takeaway: Altering digital images and video — or creating imposter social media accounts — to fabricate the appearance of standards-based news reporting is a common practice of satirists and bad actors online. In fact, trolls and propagandists often steal these kinds of satirical graphics and circulate them out of context. But sometimes purveyors of disinformation create their own “fake news” reports — either to manufacture credibility for a false claim, as in the rumor above, or to falsely impugn a news source. The bottom line: Stay skeptical of screenshots or videos that appear to be news coverage unless they are linked to the website of the news organization whose branding appears in the post.

Related: “Fact Check-Video shows Finland moving tanks to planned military exercise, not to Russian border” (Reuters Fact Check).

You can find this week's rumor examples to use with students in these slides.
Experts warn they’re expecting an increase in disinformation campaigns targeting Black voters as the midterm elections approach.
Open-source reporting that pieces together public sources of information like social media posts, satellite imagery and digital video to reconstruct events and tell stories is a growing focus in some major newsrooms. This March 23 New York Times investigative report, for example, uses intercepted radio chatter to show confusion and disorder in the Russian military.
Women journalists view attacks and harassment as “part of the price they pay” for the job, according to a new study.
Karine Jean-Pierre will soon make history when she replaces Jen Psaki as White House press secretary, becoming the first Black and first openly gay person to serve in the role.

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.