Learn news literacy this week News Goggles: Covering police | Social media ban for kids? | Objectivity debate
Note: Get Smart About News will not be published the next two weeks due to a staff retreat and Presidents Day. We’ll return to your inbox on Tuesday, Feb. 28.
Sources play a key role in reporters’ efforts to gather and publish information of public importance. Documents, images, video and people can all serve as sources in news coverage. When it comes to choosing sources, reporters work to interview the people or entities in a position to know the information they’re looking for. That might include experts, elected officials, everyday people or all of the above.
This week, we talk to Los Angeles Times reporter Libor Jany about his role covering the Los Angeles Police Department. Jany discusses his approach to reporting on public safety and how he develops sources on his beat. We consider some of the ways that sources share information with reporters — including what it means to be on the record, on background and off the record. Jany also sheds light on the steps journalists take to verify information and explains why it’s important to seek out diverse viewpoints and perspectives. Grab your news goggles!
Note: Look for this newsletter feature the first Monday of the month. You can explore previous News Goggles videos, annotations and activities in NLP’s Resource Library under “Classroom Activities.”
Renewed journalism debates over objectivity in reporting the news were sparked from an op-ed by Leonard Downie Jr., former executive editor of The Washington Post. Downie argues that news outlets should "move beyond" the idea of objectivity in order to build trust. As newsrooms become more diverse and inclusive of women, people of color and LGBTQ+ journalists, traditional conceptions of journalistic objectivity may function in a way that “negates many [journalists’] own identities, life experiences and cultural contexts, keeping them from pursuing truth in their work,” Downie wrote.
“Beyond Objectivity,” a new report co-authored by Downie, provides newsroom guidelines to strive for accuracy and fairness, while avoiding the pitfalls posed by the misguided pursuit of neutrality.
Federal legislation was recently introduced to ban children and teens under 16 from using social media due to mental health and well-being concerns, on the heels of the U.S. surgeon general saying 13 is “too early” for kids to be on social media apps. Additionally, in Utah a bill that imposes age verification and requires parent consent for teens’ social media accounts is being considered. If passed, SB152 would also limit teen users’ hours of access, block ads and some direct messaging, and require tech companies to provide parents with content and interactions of their children’s accounts upon request.
Utah’s governor and attorney general also have announced that the state is planning to sue social media companies for the harmful impact the platforms have on the mental health of teens. Earlier this month, Seattle Public Schools also filed a lawsuit against social media companies for similar reasons.
More than half of teens report that “some” or “a lot” of what they have learned about climate change comes from social media, according to an Education Week survey of 14- to 18-year-olds. Most teens cited YouTube (60%) as the social media platform where they’d seen climate change information, followed by Facebook (46%), TikTok (44%) and Instagram (40%) — underscoring the need for media literacy.
NewsLit takeaway: Doctored screenshots of newscasts are commonly used in internet memes to denigrate news outlets and sometimes to stir up racial outrage. This particular screenshot featuring CNN anchor Lynda Kinkade has been featured in dozens of similar memes that all use fake chyrons (captions or banners) and unrelated, often altered images to make it appear as though CNN had a particularly biased, sensationalized or untrustworthy report. This meme also borrows from another misinformation trope involving digitally altering skin color to falsely claim that mainstream news organizations fabricate or alter stories to push a racial agenda.
One of the most persistent goals of online propagandists is to promote distrust in authoritative sources, including news outlets, health experts and government bodies. By painting these entities as untrustworthy, distributors of disinformation can steer audiences to less credible alternative information sources that push extreme political and ideological agendas. Remember, by practicing news literacy skills, such as checking for additional sources and performing reverse image searches on questionable pieces of media, social media users can protect themselves against these bad faith arguments.
NO: The annual global climate report for 2022 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration does not state that data from the last eight years show the Earth is undergoing a cooling trend. YES: NOAA said the Earth “continued its warming trend” over the last eight years and that 2022 was the sixth warmest year on record. YES: A prominent climate denier misleadingly used data from a graph in NOAA’s Jan. 12 press release about the report to falsely say global temperatures are cooling, according to FactCheck.org.
NewsLit takeaway: Deliberately using selective and incomplete data — also known as cherry-picking — is an age-old trick used by those peddling falsehoods and bad faith arguments. Truncating data visualizations, or isolating only data that supports a belief or point of view, is a cherry-picking tactic often used with graphs and charts. While the full 143-year dataset from NOAA makes it alarmingly clear that the Earth’s temperature is rapidly warming, this viral tweet uses a segment of a graph in NOAA’s press release about the report and attempts to subvert that reality by isolating just the last eight years. When returned to their full context, it’s clear these eight years represent some of the hottest in the dataset. Remember to take care when you encounter data-based claims on social media — especially about topics like climate change, which are commonly targeted for disinformation. It’s always a good idea to go back to the source to double-check that scientific reports and data are being presented accurately.
YES: Congress banned hats and other headwear in 1837 and loosened the rule for religious head coverings in 2018. NO: Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy did not ask Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin to remove his head covering to abide by the rules. YES: A spokesperson for Raskin told the Associated Press that when a colleague asked Raskin, hypothetically, “what he would do if Republicans made him take off his headwear,” Raskin joked he would request that House members also remove their toupees.
NewsLit takeaway: Rumors that confirm preconceived beliefs often spread online without proper scrutiny. This tendency, a byproduct of political tribalism and confirmation bias, leads people to uncritically accept information that supports their worldview and often causes them to amplify misinformation.
One of the best antidotes to the spread of misinformation is being intentional about slowing down and taking the time to check these kinds of rumors against multiple sources — no matter how many individual people are echoing the claim.
How did a local reporter get duped into writing an emotional — but false — story about a 19-year-old’s battle with cancer? He let her be his only source.
As the number of legacy local newspapers declines, “The Roadmap for Local News” report outlines a new practice called “civic media,” which focuses on “giving people information they need to make the places they live better.”
It’s easier than ever to create fake news content for “pink slime” and other bogus publications. Within minutes, ChatGPT, the AI text-generating bot, produced headlines, stories, editorials and even fictional staff names and convincing bios for a fake news site — drawing more concerns over how ChatGPT could be exploited.
AI technology doesn’t only help bad actors churn out misinformation online — it can also help fact-checkers identify and debunk falsehoods more efficiently and effectively.
Though pundits and politicians say DirecTV’s decision to drop the conservative network Newsmax from its lineup is politically motivated censorship, the carrier says it was a business decision made in response to the network’s recent demands for higher fees.
Russia is targeting several African countries with disinformation campaigns that resemble their efforts to divide Americans and interfere with the U.S. presidential election in 2016.
Accepting an invitation from Beyoncé to a private party in Dubai where she performs for an exclusive audience and pays for your hotel and first-class airplane tickets is a total no-brainer — unless you’re a journalist. A group of journalists accepted this invitation, prompting media ethics experts to weigh in on the extravagant trip.