Top ten dubious polling award: David W. Moore says CBS News gets first place in the tongue-in-cheek awards “for explicitly highlighting the knowledge-free basis of much public opinion polling” in 2017.
Moore said CBS nudged respondents to guess despite their admitted lack of knowledge.
The Internet’s central villain: Farhad Manjo asks what is the driving force behind much of the chaos and disrepute online?
“This isn’t that hard,” he writes. “You don’t need a crazy wall to figure it out, because the force to blame has been quietly shaping the contours of life online since just about the beginning of life online: It’s the advertising business, stupid.”
Rumors, misinformation and fake news: Craig Silverman says he helped popularize the term “fake news” and now regrets it.
Silverman and colleagues published an analysis of 50 of the biggest fake news hits on Facebook in 2017.
“This highlights the challenge faced by Facebook to find ways to halt or arrest the spread of completely false stories on its platform, and raises questions about how much progress has been made in fighting this type of misinformation.”
Facebook “remains the home of massively viral hoaxes,” says Silverman.
Comprehensive guide to digital security: Motherboard tells how to guard against hackers and surveillance. Digital basics for privacy and messaging.
“As a consumer, you can’t control the bugs that your carrier leave open for hackers. But you can make it a bit harder for hackers to impersonate you with gullible tech support employees. The solution is easy, although not that many people know about it: A secondary password or passcode that you need to provide when you call your cellphone provider.”
Fake news might have proved more interesting to readers than the factual stuff.
This sobering thought has churned angst over whether social-media falsehoods contributed to Donald Trump’s presidential victory, not to mention whether the upset win could have been foreseen.
News consumers tend to believe reports that support their personal beliefs — an effect that psychologists call confirmation bias. People like to believe they’re right. In the election run-up, they clicked their way across the internet to prove it.
As President-elect Trump selects the people who’ll help him govern, observers are picking through the rubble trying to understand the forces behind a Republican victory. Here our concern is news-media accuracy and ethics.
Let’s start with something basic. What is fake news?
“Pure fiction,” says Jackie Spinner, assistant professor of journalism at Columbia College Chicago, appearing on WTTW-Channel 11 in Chicago in a “Chicago Tonight” program devoted to separating fact from fiction in internet news feeds.
“It’s something made up,” adds Spinner. “It’s fake.”
Just when you think an ethics issue has been put to rest, a Mother Jones magazine reporter spends four months working undercover as a guard at a corporate-run prison in Louisiana.
“I took a $9 an hour job as a private prison guard in Louisiana,” reporter Shane Bauer wrote in a 35,000 word, six-part report accompanied by two sidebar reports and an editor’s note, plus video.
“I saw stabbings, an escape and prisoners and guards struggling to survive,” Bauer wrote.
The publication’s editor-in-chief, Clara Jeffery, wrote that legal intimidation makes investigations of prisons rare, but “it’s time for journalists to reclaim our roots.” She pointed to an 1887 undercover investigation of a women’s mental asylum by New York World reporter Nellie Bly as an early example of the kind of work journalists should be doing. It triggered reforms.
It’s fair to say undercover reporting has fallen into disfavor these days because it often depends on deception, for which a publication can be sued. And it can make journalists look like liars.
“Avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information unless traditional, open methods will not yield information vital to the public,” says the Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics.
Update:“I should not have believed a word he said,” author Gay Talese said after the Washington Post informed him that property records showed that the subject of his latest book, a Peeping Tom motel owner, did not own the motel from 1980 to 1988. While Talese disavowed his latest book in the Post’s report, he and his publisher defended the book to the New York Times.
By Casey Bukro
One questionable ethical episode after another piles up in the New Yorker’s excerpt of a forthcoming Gay Talese book. In “The Voyeur’s Motel,” a serial Peeping Tom owner of a motel might have witnessed a possible murder. He invites Talese to join him in secretly watching a couple have sex.
By Talese’s own admission, there’s reason to believe some of the story is not true.
It’s possible the New Yorker was swayed by the author’s fame in publishing a titillating account of voyeurism. The Aurora, Colorado, motel owner kept detailed written accounts of what he saw through the ceiling ventilating system grille openings over more than a dozen rooms. Talese writes that he could not verify some details, including the murder. He shrugs it off as poor record-keeping.
Although the motel owner, Gerald Foos, admits to being a voyeur since the age of 9, he considers himself a researcher of human sexual habits. Talese knows the subject as well, having explored it in 1981’s “Thy Neighbor’s Wife.” He’s also an inventor of New Journalism, a style that depends heavily on subjective observation.
“Over the years, as I burrowed deeper into Foos’s story, I found various inconsistencies – mostly about dates – that called his reliability into question,” Talese wrote in the New Yorker excerpt. Most editors might balk at publishing a story on which the writer himself casts doubt upon its reliability. But the New Yorker forged ahead.
At least Talese points to the holes in his story. Under the rules of Old Journalism, that would have qualified “spiking” the piece.