Learn news literacy this week Twitter and free speech | Sheriff targets reporter | 'Birds Aren't Real' revisited
This school year, News Goggles has aimed to offer a behind-the-scenes look at journalism through videos of conversations with professional journalists about their work. We've spoken to journalists from Oklahoma Watch, The Chicago Tribune, Colorado Public Radio, The 19th* and Reuters. Along the way, we've shined a light on key news literacy concepts, including sourcing, watchdog reporting and journalism standards. We will return in the fall with more News Goggles resources!
A California sheriff’s recent efforts to target a Los Angeles Times reporter are part of a trend of public officials using their power to undercut the work of journalists, write Elahe Izadi and Paul Farhi of The Washington Post. Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced at a recent news conference that Times reporter Alene Tchekmedyian would be included in a criminal leak investigation following her watchdog reporting on a departmental cover-up involving a deputy kneeling on an inmate’s head. Amid widespread criticism, the sheriff backed off his remarks, but press freedom advocates say such actions can still have a chilling effect on other reporting on matters of public interest.
The desire to avoid conflict plays a key role in how and whether people challenge misinformation on personal messaging platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, according to a recent report from the Everyday Misinformation Project. Researchers conducted in-depth interviews with 102 people in the U.K. and examined how social norms shaped their responses to COVID-19 vaccine falsehoods shared in personal messaging groups. They found that people — worried about “undermining group cohesion by provoking conflict” — were reluctant to speak up. But, the report noted, failing to call out falsehoods in friend, family or school groups can tacitly legitimize misinformation and “contribute to its further spread.”
NewsLit takeaway: Sensational footage of fires, artillery and other militarycombat scenes has repeatedly gone viral out of context during the war between Ukraine and Russia — often to chase clicks and engagement online. As is the case during many significant news events, purveyors of misinformation seized on the sinking of Russia’s flagship missile cruiser for attention — and the stunning video of the decommissioned Norwegian naval ship exploding was easy to pass off out of context. Though these kinds of false context rumors are often recirculated without being altered, in this instance the original video was flipped, likely to make it more difficult for fact-checkers to locate the actual source.
NO: The fact that Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial for sex trafficking in 2021 was not broadcast while other court proceedings — such as the 2022 defamation trial involving Johnny Depp and his ex-wife, Amber Heard — are live-streamed is not due to a conspiracy to protect powerful people on Maxwell’s “client list,” as this meme implies. YES: Maxwell’s criminal trial took place in federal court, where “electronic media coverage … has been expressly prohibited” since 1946. YES: Depp’s defamation suit against Heard is a civil matter being tried in a Virginia state court, where electronic media coverage is permitted at the discretion of judges.
NewsLit takeaway: Conspiratorial thinking can lead people to jump to conclusions and misinterpret innocuous details as “evidence” that supports their preferred theories about the world. In this case, false rumors about Maxwell’s trial stem from a persistent belief that powerful institutions are conspiring to protect influential people associated with Jeffrey Epstein — the financier who died by suicide while awaiting trial on sex trafficking and conspiracy charges in 2019. Conspiracy theorists indulged in the same kind of motivated reasoning when Kyle Rittenhouse was tried for murder in Wisconsin state court in 2021. Several iterations of this highly misleading claim have recently circulated online, including in an April 25 tweet by Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.
Be sure to explore the recently launched digital publication The Emancipator, which revives America’s first abolitionist newspaper and seeks to reframe the national conversation on racial equity.
The Department of Homeland Security has formed a new Disinformation Governance Board to combat the threat of disinformation. The board announced that its initial focus will be on misinformation targeting migrants — which can lead to surges at the southern border — along with Russian disinformation intended to disrupt elections in the United States.