GSAN: NYT diversity report | Floating astronaut misinfo | Fake Tom Cruise

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NYT diversity report | Floating astronaut misinfo | Fake Tom Cruise


Changing of the Times

Amid a focus on racial equity in American newsrooms and society at large, The New York Times on Feb. 24 published a report critical of its workplace culture and issued “A Call to Action” for reforms to make the company more diverse, equitable and inclusive. The report’s “central finding is that The Times is too often a difficult place to work for people of all backgrounds — particularly colleagues of color, and especially Black and Latino colleagues.”

Practices, systems, and the current environment at the Times — one of the largest and most influential news organizations in the country — do not allow for all staffers to thrive, the report noted. That reality “is particularly true for people of color, many of whom described unsettling and sometimes painful day-to-day workplace experiences.” Asian American women said they felt “invisible and unseen — to the point of being regularly called by the name of a different colleague of the same race, something other people of color described as well.” The report also highlighted a lack of leadership roles for Black and Latino employees.

The findings acknowledged company successes, such as its transformation into a digital newsroom and efforts that have led to more people of color and women on staff, including some in leadership positions. But women of color in particular continue to lack adequate representation in top roles. (At the Times, “leadership” means “director and above on the business side and deputy and above in the newsroom.”)

Proposed reforms are detailed in the report, including improving management practices and “a goal of increasing the representation of Black and Latino colleagues in leadership by 50 percent by 2025.” The report said making the newsroom more diverse, equitable and inclusive will result in news coverage “that provides a truer, richer and more textured portrayal of the world.”


Viral rumor rundown

NO: This is not Tom Cruise. YES: It is a synthetically manipulated “deepfake” video in which an algorithm, trained on real footage of Tom Cruise, has swapped in a computer-generated re-creation of Cruise’s face over the actual face of a body actor.

Note: A new TikTok account — @deeptomcruise — posted several deepfake videos recently of the algorithmically-generated “Cruise” doing a variety of activities such as hitting a golf ball, tripping before telling a joke (above) and using sleight of hand to make a coin disappear.

Resource: Sensity’s deepfake detection tool checks photos and videos for evidence of manipulation by face-swapping technologies.



NO: This is not an authentic NASA photograph of late astronaut Bruce McCandless II floating untethered in space. YES: The bottom half of the photo has been digitally altered to show snow-covered mountain ranges. YES: The original photo (below) shows McCandless performing the first untethered spacewalk in history in February 1984.

The authentic NASA photo of McCandless floating freely in space in February 1984. He was the first person in history to ever perform an untethered spacewalk.


NO: The photo in this tweet from Luke Rudkowski, a conspiracy theorist, is not authentic. YES: The photo was manipulated to add the Black Lives Matter logo and transgender pride flag. YES: Misleading political memes supposedly showing progressive slogans on weapons have been shared on the internet before. YES: The doctored photo was also published (warning: foul language) to a notoriously racist and sexist message board on 4chan after the United States carried out airstrikes against Iran-backed militias in Syria on Feb. 25.

Tip: Follow @hoaxeye on Twitter for expert debunks of manipulated images.

The Twitter account @hoaxeye debunked this manipulated photo.


★ NewsLit Picks


“How Americans Navigated the News in 2020: A Tumultuous Year in Review” (Pew Research Center).

Americans ahead of the 2020 election widely agreed that misinformation “is a major problem,” but they “do not see eye to eye about what actually constitutes misinformation,” according to a new report from the Pew Research Center. The report also found that Americans who primarily turned to social media for political news were less knowledgeable about current events and more likely to have heard unproven theories about COVID-19. These findings were among the key takeaways from Pew’s American News Pathways project, which based its research on 10 different surveys to examine how Americans navigated the news from November 2019 through December 2020.

Most U.S. adults said they saw at least some news on the 2020 election that “seemed completely made up,” and many also said they were exposed to “made-up news” related to COVID-19 last year, the report said. But views of misinformation in such a polarized political climate varied widely: “In many cases, one person’s truth is another’s fiction.”


Quick Picks

“Australia passes law requiring Facebook and Google to pay for news content” (Jon Porter, The Verge).

  • Note: The Feb. 22 issue of The Sift included a summary of Australia’s proposed legislation to make technology companies (notably Facebook and Google) pay media companies for the right to use (and sell ads against) links to news stories. In response, Facebook instituted a platform-wide ban on news sharing. Hours after the newsletter was sent, Facebook announced that it had reached an agreement with the Australian government and that the ban would be lifted. An amended version of the legislation was passed by the Australian Parliament on Feb. 25.
  • Related: “Facebook's news ban 'experiment' is almost over. Here's what we've learnt” (James Purtill, ABC News).

“Washington Post denounces abuse of reporter” (Joseph Choi, The Hill).

“Celebrating Black History: Renaissance of the Black press” (Alison Bethel McKenzie, Report for America).

“Finding misinformation with ‘rumor cues’” (Tommy Shane, First Draft Footnotes).


Thanks for reading!

Your weekly issue of Get Smart About News is created by Peter Adams (@PeterD_Adams), Suzannah Gonzales and Hannah Covington (@HannahCov) of the News Literacy Project. It is edited by NLP’s Mary Kane (@marykkane).

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