GSAN: Sexism in journalism | Stimulus bill misinfo | Iowa reporter cleared

Subscribe to our free weekly newsletter for the general public Get Smart About News.


Learn about news literacy this week
Sexism in journalism | Stimulus bill misinfo | Iowa reporter cleared


Sexism in journalism

Women working as journalists increasingly face gender-based violence outside of their newsrooms, including a barrage of threats and hate online. But they also endure it inside their workplaces, from discrimination to sexual assaults and harassment, according to a new Reporters Without Borders (RSF) report detailing the toll sexism has taken on journalism.

“The two-fold danger to which many women journalists are subjected is far too common, not only in traditional reporting fields as well as new digital areas and the Internet, but also where they should be protected: in their own newsrooms,” the report said.

Published on March 8 — International Women’s Day — the report includes RSF’s analysis of 112 responses to questionnaires sent to its global correspondents and journalists who cover gender, and collected between July and October 2020.

The trauma female journalists experience due to violence both in and out of the newsroom silences victims and leads some to close their social media accounts or even resign, the report found. Issues affecting women “become invisible” in news coverage when there aren’t enough women in top leadership positions, the report said: “The lack of multiple viewpoints within media organisations has major editorial consequences, including in the representation of women in the content offered to the public.”

Note: A separate March 8 report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism revealed that 22% of top editors at 240 major news organizations are women.

Viral rumor rundown

NO: The fourth “phase” of the Keystone pipeline project — called Keystone XL — was not “just about completed” nor was it “paid for” when President Joe Biden canceled it in January. YES: The first three phases of the Keystone Pipeline System — connecting Alberta, Canada, to Port Arthur, Texas — were completed by 2014. YES: The controversial Keystone XL pipeline project was blocked by former President Barack Obama, then later approved by former President Donald Trump, and blocked again by President Joe Biden in January. YES: About 94 miles of the 1,210 miles of the planned XL pipeline — or about 8% — had been built and a fraction of the estimated $8 billion cost had been pledged when Biden revoked the project’s permit.

Note: This is but one example of a number of false and misleading viral rumors (see here, here, here and here for examples) concerning Biden, the Keystone pipeline and the rising price of oil and gas.


NO: The medical worker in this video did not fake giving actor Anthony Hopkins a COVID-19 vaccination and instead squirt the vaccine onto the ground. YES: The worker was expelling excess vaccine occupying the “dead space” in the syringe, which is a standard part of administering injections of any medication. YES: A spokesperson for CHA Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center confirmed Hopkins received a full dose at a Los Angeles drive-thru vaccination point. NO: This Instagram account is not an official account of the Republican party, despite its name.


NO: Oprah Winfrey was not wearing an ankle monitor under her boots during her March 7 interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, the Duchess and Duke of Sussex. YES: This is a narrative fragment of the QAnon mass conspiratorial delusion, which contends that many public figures, including Winfrey, are part of a Satanic cabal of cannibalistic pedophiles, many of whom are secretly under house arrest.

Note: This isn’t the first time that baseless, conspiratorial “ankle monitor” rumors have circulated about Winfrey. They have also circulated about a number of other public figures (see here, here, here and here).



NO: Shredded and destroyed ballots containing votes from the 2020 presidential election were not found in a dumpster in Maricopa County, Arizona, prior to the start of a state Senate audit of election results. YES: The Maricopa County Elections Department confirmed to Lead Stories that by law voted ballots are kept for a 24-month retention period. YES: County election officials said “the 2.1 million voted ballots from the November General Election are safe and accounted for in a vault, under 24/7 surveillance.” YES: The ballots in the photo could be discarded sample ballots or unused mail-in ballots, according to the county. NO: Former President Donald Trump did not win the state of Arizona in 2020, as this Facebook post also claims.

Note: Numerous falsehoods about destroyed ballots circulated online throughout the 2020 election. Many of them were based on citizen “investigators” mistaking legally destroyed ballots for evidence of fraud.

Also note: This Facebook post links to a baseless story published on March 6 by the right-wing conspiracy website The Gateway Pundit. A recent analysis of election misinformation conducted by the Election Integrity Partnership found that the site was “a top repeat spreader” (see page 192) of election-related misinformation.



★ NewsLit Picks


“‘The jury made the right decision’: Reporter Andrea Sahouri acquitted in trial stemming from arrest as she covered protest” (William Morris, Des Moines Register).

In a win for press freedom, a jury in Iowa acquitted Des Moines Register reporter Andrea Sahouri, who was pepper-sprayed and arrested in May as she covered a Black Lives Matter protest. After a three-day trial, during which she testified that she identified herself to police as a journalist and said, “‘I put up my hands and said ‘I’m press, I’m press,’” Sahouri was found not guilty on March 10 of two misdemeanor charges (failure to disperse and interference with official acts). Sahouri described the jury’s decision as upholding “‘democracy, a just democracy, the freedom of the press, First Amendment rights, the list goes on.’”



Quick Picks

“Black and Hispanic Communities Grapple With Vaccine Misinformation” (Sheera Frenkel, The New York Times).


Analysis: “One reason Meghan suffered racist UK coverage: The media is not diverse” (Hanna Ziady, CNN Business).


“How Facebook got addicted to spreading misinformation” (Karen Hao, MIT Technology Review).

  • Related: “Instagram Suggested Posts To Users. It Served Up COVID-19 Falsehoods, Study Finds” (Shannon Bond, NPR).
  • Note: “Ad-tech” companies, like Facebook, generate revenue by making it free to share and consume content while collecting data about users, including their demographic information, location and interests. They then sell advertisers access to specific segments of people based on these factors. This is why social media companies use algorithms to learn what content people like and then promote it to them: When people spend more time looking at content, they generate more data and see more ads, creating more revenue.

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).

Sign up to receive NLP Connections (news about our work) or switch your subscription to the educator version of Get Smart About News called The Sift® here.


Check out NLP's Checkology virtual classroom, where students learn how to navigate today’s information landscape by developing news literacy skills.