The American Society of News Editors received responses to its 41st annual survey from 429 news organizations — both print/digital newsrooms and online-only outlets. The results (PDF download), released last Tuesday, found that people of color comprised 21.9% of salaried employees in 2018, compared with 21.8% the year before. Online-only news outlets responding to the survey increased the racial diversity of their salaried employees by more than 6 percentage points, from 24.6% in 2017 to 30.8% in 2018.
Almost a fifth (19.1%) of newsroom managers at responding news organizations in 2018 were people of color, slightly higher than the previous year’s 17.6%. More than 40% of managers were women (compared with about 42% in 2017); 2% of managers identified as gender nonbinary.
The response rate increased in 2018: Almost a quarter (23%) of the 1,883 news outlets that received the survey returned it, up from 17% — a record low — the year before.
Discuss: Is it important that the staffs of local newsrooms reflect the diversity of the community they cover? Why? Should newsrooms that cover communities that aren’t very diverse still make diversity a priority? Why or why not? What kinds of diversity should newsrooms focus on?
Idea: Contact local print and/or online news organizations and ask if they participated in the ASNE Newsroom Diversity Survey. If they didn’t, ask why, and whether they will next year. If they did, ask if they will share their data with your class.
Another idea: Another idea: Ask students to use the U.S. Census Bureau’s American FactFinder portal to research demographic information about their community. Then compare the census data with survey data from a local newsroom (if available) or with the ASNE survey results.
NO: These women did not wear pro-Trump shirts that said “I’m a racist bitch 2020.” YES: These women did wear pro-Trump shirts that said “I’m a Trump girl 2020.”
Note: Messages on T-shirts are an extremely common target of photo manipulators and should always be checked.
Also note: The doctored image was circulated by otheraccounts on Twitter last week.
Idea: Use this as an example of the way misinformation that targets strong emotions and controversies can cause people to accept — or even rationalize — their initial perceptions when a claim upholds a personal conviction or accepted truth.
Discuss: Is it possible to know whether this doctored image was created as a joke or with an intent to deceive people? Is there evidence online that it did deceive people?
NO: President Trump was not rushed off stage by Secret Service agents at an event earlier this month after someone in the audience said “Chrissy Teigen’s here” following a tense exchange on Twitter in which Trump referred to Teigen as “filthy-mouthed” and she responded with an obscenity. YES: Trump was rushed off stage by Secret Service agents at a November 2016 campaign rally in Reno, Nevada, after someone yelled “Gun!” This clip was taken out of context and had audio added.
Note: Though this coarsely altered video was likely intended as a joke, somecommenters (warning: foul language) on Twitter seemed unsure.
Also note: Connecting rumors to current events — in this case, the possibility of President Trump meeting with Taliban leaders at Camp David on Sept. 10 — is a common misinformation tactic.
Five to teach
The Mozilla Foundation is asking people to share their “YouTube regret” stories: instances in which the platform’s recommendation algorithm has led users to strange, conspiratorial, offensive or exploitative videos, and perhaps has continued to recommend them on subsequent visits. The foundation — the sole shareholder of the company that developed the Firefox browser and other open source tools — plans to present the stories to YouTube in a meeting later this month.
Note:This April 2018 report by Ben Popken of NBC News is an excellent introduction to the issue of problematic recommendations made by YouTube’s “Up next” algorithm.
Discuss: How does YouTube’s recommendation algorithm work? Why is it there? How often does it cause you to spend more time watching videos on the platform than you intended? Has it ever led you to strange or troubling videos, or steered you to a conspiracy theory video when you were looking for something else?
Idea: Ask students to share their experiences with YouTube’s recommendation algorithm. Then ask those with the most compelling stories to submit them to Mozilla for its meeting with YouTube.
Another idea: As a class, do a series of searches for a variety of innocuous topics, then follow the “Up next” algorithmic suggestion for a specific number of clicks and reflect on where it takes you.
TikTok, the popular video-based social media platform owned by the Chinese tech company ByteDance, has almost no content about the ongoing anti-government protests in Hong Kong, The Washington Post reported yesterday. The stark disparity in content about the protests available on other social media platforms and on TikTok has renewed concerns that the app — whose user base has rocketed to 1.3 billion people worldwide — may be a vector for Chinese government propaganda. ByteDance does not share any information about the videos it removes for violating its terms of service and has consistently acquiesced to demands by Chinese government censors, the Post said.
Note: In a statement to the Post, ByteDance said that all data about its U.S. users is stored domestically and that its content and moderation policies for those users are led by a team that is based in the United States and is not influenced by the Chinese government.
Idea: Challenge your students to create TikTok videos about the protests in Hong Kong and try to post them to the platform — perhaps using a new account established for that purpose — to see if they are removed.
Many of the most viral fake images are “terrible manipulations, technically speaking,” says Christye Sisson, an associate professor of photographic sciences at the Rochester (New York) Institute of Technology. Sisson and her team have produced sophisticated manipulations of videos and images as part of a U.S. government program to create a “media forensics” platform — an automated way to detect fakes. But she also has noticed how effective even crude or “cheap” fakes can be — a reminder that if a piece of misinformation “supports what someone already believes, they often accept it unquestioningly.” The exception, she notes, might be young people who don’t remember a time in which digital manipulations weren’t common. The attitudes of teens toward digital content, she says, may “herald a cultural shift away from relying on images or video as ‘proof.’”
Idea: Conduct a class poll to see how many students assume that images found online are fake unless proven authentic. Do students approach photos from different online sources with different sets of assumptions?
Another idea: Use this discussion as an opportunity to ensure that all of your students know how to do a reverse image search.
District of Columbia prosecutors last week dismissed charges of inciting violence and disorderly conduct that had been filed against Gregory Lee Johnson, who was arrested on July 4 after burning two American flags during a protest near the White House. In 1984, as the Republican National Convention was being held in Dallas, Johnson burned an American flag outside City Hall during a protest against the policies of the Reagan administration and several Texas-based corporations. His conviction for “desecration of a venerated object” in violation of Texas law led to a landmark Supreme Court decision five years later: that the First Amendment protects flag-burning as a form of “symbolic speech.”
Discuss: Which First Amendment freedoms were being exercised during the July 4 protest? Should burning the American flag be protected speech under the First Amendment?
Idea: Ask students to review the details of Texas v. Johnson. Before you reveal the court’s decision, ask students to take a position on whether Johnson’s burning of the American flag is protected expression under the First Amendment.
Resource:“The First Amendment,” a lesson in the News Literacy Project’s Checkology® virtual classroom (preview only).
Both Democrats and Republicans alleged bias on the part of fact-checkers last week. Representatives of two senators seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris, said that fact checks by mainstream news outlets (The Washington Post and CNN, respectively) nitpicked minor details of statements made by the candidates and created a false equivalence with more demonstrably false statements made by President Trump. Four Republican senators accused Facebook of partisan bias and censorship after Health Feedback — a Facebook fact-checking partner that includes doctors with ties to abortion rights organizations — flagged an anti-abortion video as false. Facebook removed that fact check.
Discuss: Does either of these allegations of bias strike you as credible? Do our perceptions of bias align with our own political views?