NPR and PBS no longer update their Twitter accounts due to misleading labels. (Image credit: Ralf Liebhold/Shutterstock.com)
NPR became the first major news organization to stop updating its Twitter accounts, a decision that was announced on April 12 after it was labeled “state affiliated media” and later “government-funded media” on the platform. NPR says the labels are inaccurate because it maintains editorial independence from all funding sources, most of which are individual donors and grants. NPR CEO John Lansing said leaving the platform protects the news organization’s credibility and noted that “all journalism has revenue of some sort.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists also condemned the Twitter labels and pointed out the risks such labels pose to “journalists reporting from areas where suggestions of government affiliation have negative connotations.”
Discuss: What do you think of NPR’s decision to leave Twitter? What does the “government-funded media label” imply? Why is editorial independence important for a news organization’s credibility? How does NPR News differ from state-controlled media outlets like Russia Today? Does funding from advertisers, donors or other sources of revenue affect news coverage at standards-based news organizations? How do you determine which news outlets are credible?
Idea: Print out copies of the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics. Have students form small groups and ask them to review the “Act Independently” section on the right. What does it mean for journalists to practice editorial independence? Do all news organizations aspire to these ethical guidelines? How can you tell which news organizations take these ethics seriously?
Note: Check out this TikTok video from the News Literacy Project that summarizes why NPR left Twitter.
Dig deeper: Use this think sheet to take notes on editorial independence at standards-based news organizations and Twitter labels.
As the number of full-time statehouse reporters has declined, student reporters from university-led programs are filling the gap. About 250 statehouse student reporters produced more than 1,000 stories in 2022. Students covering state government news have produced impactful journalism. In Montana, the governor announced a $2.1 million mental health screening initiative after a student reporter’s story on the subject got picked up by several news outlets in the state. Students account for more than 10% of statehouse reporters in the U.S., according to the Pew Research Center.
Discuss: What issues do statehouse reporters cover? How does robust coverage of state government contribute to a healthy democracy? When have you or your community been impacted by statehouse news? What do you think is a good news source for updates on state or local news? Why has the number of full-time statehouse reporters declined in recent years?
Local journalists covering mass shootings in their community are becoming more openly emotional in their broadcasts. After five people were fatally shot in Louisville, Kentucky, last week, one local reporter held hands with a shooting survivor on air and offered her phone to the person. Another reporter told viewers she knew people injured in the shooting — a major difference from national reports that generally have more distance from the scene. Although reporters typically work not to make themselves part of the story, local journalists who live and work in a community where a mass shooting takes place sometimes tear up on air or even recall their own experiences as mass shooting survivors, expressing empathy, anger and frustration.
Discuss: Have you ever seen local news reporters react emotionally while reporting the news? Is it OK for local broadcast journalists to show their emotions when they report on tragic events? Why or why not? What personal ties to a community do local reporters have (as opposed to national reporters)? How might these ties change the way they approach their coverage?
Idea: Use NLP’s Newsroom to Classroom program to schedule a conversation with a local news reporter about these issues.
NO: This is not an authentic video of former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton endorsing Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis for president. YES: This video is an algorithmically generated deepfake video based on genuine footage of a December 2021 NBC News interview with Clinton. YES: The video’s creator is listed as “Ramble Rants” and the words “Hail Hydra” — a reference to Marvel Comics superhero Captain America — appear at the end of the clip, both of which are clues that this is satire and not real.
NewsLit takeaway: This video plays into the guilt by association fallacy — when a person or group is demonized due to a seeming connection with an already demonized person or group. In this case, the video creates a fictional scenario in which DeSantis, a potential Republican presidential candidate and challenger to former President Donald Trump, is endorsed by Clinton, a regular target of Trump and other conservatives.
As AI technology advances and becomes increasingly capable of creating realistic content, social media users need to exercise skepticism when scrolling through their feeds. Remember, when encountering sensational claims online, it’s always a good idea to seek out a second source that can add context to the content.
NO: This is not an authentic video clip of NBA superstar LeBron James bringing the ball up the court and driving to the basket without dribbling. YES: This video was created by altering a video of James scoring — and dribbling — on a fast break against the Toronto Raptors on March 14, 2019.
NewsLit takeaway: The belief that modern NBA players brazenly travel and that referees frequently allow the league’s biggest stars to get away with the worst of these violations is fairly widespread. These preconceived beliefs no doubt helped provide an air of authenticity to this eight-second clip appearing to show James moving from half-court to the rim without the ball ever touching the floor. This subtle but convincing edit racked up more than 1.8 million views.
Confirmation bias, or the tendency to look for evidence that supports one’s preconceived opinions, can easily dupe people as they mindlessly scroll and react on social media. This viral clip underscores the need to slow down and think critically, even when dealing with posts about sports.
Health misinformation online has contributed to lower life expectancy in the U.S., according to the FDA commissioner, who called for better regulation of misinformation by government agencies.
Should the government regulate social media platforms for extremist content, like hate speech? The CEO of Reddit, the sixth-most popular website in the U.S., doesn’t think so.
Imagine out-of-town visitors flocking to your local graveyard to pay respect to children they believed were part of a satanic pedophile ring involving public officials. That’s what happened at a small Dutch town when a QAnon-inspired conspiracy theory took root.
Would unplugging from social media make you happier? A few people who’ve done so, including teachers, share their experiences. One major upside? More time.
Although the speed and quality of AI-generated misinformation may be alarming, experts say fact-checkers are adapting. This 60 Minutes segment provides a good overview of AI chatbots — and even shows how Google’s Bard expands the famous six-word short story “For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.”