Press "Enter" to skip to content

Well-informed, fake news howlers

I promised part two of “Being well-informed amid media madness” by the end of this weekend.

Technically, I’m delivering. I just finished writing the thing. It needs to marinate overnight, though, before I polish and post it.

Meanwhile …

While researching for the positive, constructive side of the media madness mess, I conducted many searches, such as “how to get a life,” “how to be well-informed,” and “how to recognize fake news.”

I wasn’t surprised that most of what I found proved to be useless for my purposes. I wasn’t even surprised that much of it turned out to be slanted left (ALL of the hits on recognizing “fake news” came from the left because of course the left owns that phrase.)

Typical is this three-year-old blog entry that assumes that if you’re well-informed and a critical thinker you’ll be out there somewhere being a global citizen while getting your “facts” from the Gates Foundation and (There’s nothing wrong with this article. In fact there are many very good points in it. And I assume the blogger simply knows his audience and is directing his opinions to their interests, as I try to direct mine to yours. The post is only weird in what it assumes to be factual and reliable. And of course (sadly), urging young people to become critical thinkers is SO three-years ago.)

I was also struck by how many writers assumed Big Media “news” to be reliable, even while urging readers not to trust anonymous sources — which are, these days, the mainstay of articles from outfits like the NYT and WaPo. The many weird assumptions and self-contradictory statements like that just blew my mind.

But the real howler among the bunch was an article on recognizing fake news that I first thought might turn out to be among the best. It looked very thorough and well-organized. And there is decent info in it — which unfortunately only serves as camo for its core biases. I’ll leave you to find the hilarious or irritatingly misleading “truths” in the piece for yourselves.

But you simply must see this laugh-a-minute chart, particularly its … um, interesting concept of what constitutes mainstream news:


  1. Toirdhealbheach Beucail
    Toirdhealbheach Beucail April 18, 2021 3:20 pm

    Claire, my assumption is that any article proclaiming that it has the “recipe” for finding reliable news is simply a justification for one side or other other. Very, very few people anymore can write in a truly neutral, disembodied, fact based manner.

  2. Simon Templar
    Simon Templar April 18, 2021 3:53 pm

    I think the infographic says more about the author (appears to be Vanessa Otero) than about the news sources.

    One of the many reasons so few people can write in a truly neutral, fact-based manner is it is increasingly difficult to find truly neutral facts. Despite (or maybe because of) the vast amounts of information available today via the Internet, it can be difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff and find facts that you can hang your hat on.

  3. Steve
    Steve April 18, 2021 4:26 pm

    RT and All Jazeera…at least you know where they’re coming from.

  4. Granny
    Granny April 18, 2021 6:09 pm

    To Steve re: RT and Al Jazeera…. LOL! So true.
    Regarding the “chart”, I’d use the chart to know what to avoid: all of it.
    The one I find most offensive: NPR – National Public Broadcasting, funded in part by us, is nothing more than the propaganda arm of the Uni-Party, meaning both sides of the sinking aisle. I don’t even own a television any more. I felt it was beaming propaganda into my home and didn’t want the temptation to “lounge” while mindlessly allowing it to do so. A good book is so much better – hopefully purchased from a second hand bookstore and not the behemoth Amazon. Being out of doors is even better.

    Thanks Claire!

  5. larryarnold
    larryarnold April 18, 2021 7:28 pm

    What hurts me is I watch my wife and my publisher bust their buns to write high-quality local news stories every week. (It’s a weekly paper.) Which they should be, my wife has been an award-winning photojournalist for 40-plus years, and my publisher for 30-plus. Old School.

    The purpose of a news article is not to “tell the truth.” Truth is always subjective. The purpose of a good news article is to tell both sides of the story. And you can’t tell both sides if your reporters are tuning out one side.

    The New York Times almost got it right. After the 2016 election their PTB noticed that their predictions were out in Left field. They realized there are a lot of people they weren’t listening to. So they hired Bari Weiss to bring some of those voices onto their pages.

    Predictably the woke folks in the NYT newsroom Mau-Maued Weiss, claiming she created “unsafe working conditions” for them. Unfortunately the NYT PTB caved, and let them run her off, to restore their news room safe space. In 2020 the NYT predictions were out past the Left field fence, in the weeds.

    Hint: If your newsroom is a “safe space,” you aren’t doing Journalism. There’s a reason they call it “hard news.”

  6. Sam Hall
    Sam Hall April 18, 2021 8:21 pm

    Hmm, marinated blog. Or is it, blog marinade? Blog being a mulled wine with raisins in it long before the World Wide Web was a gleam in Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s eye.

    The infographic is incorrect in at least one respect. The American section of the Economist has ceased being only minimally biased. The last year and a half has been dripping with vitriol for Mr. Trump. Ah, well, they did but confirm my suspicions.

  7. Sam Hall
    Sam Hall April 18, 2021 8:25 pm

    Incidentally, what does one mean by “both sides” of a story? In my experience there are at least as many sides as there are participants in the event allegedly being covered.

  8. Val E. Forge
    Val E. Forge April 18, 2021 8:38 pm

    Well said Sam Hall. The late, great Hunter S. Thompson said that the biggest lie they told him in journalism school was that there were two sides to every story. Mr. Thompson insisted that there was always more than just two.

  9. Thomas L. Knapp
    Thomas L. Knapp April 19, 2021 3:17 am

    “There is no such thing as Objective Journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms.” — Hunter S. Thompson

    As for telling “both sides” of a story, if the story is “straight news,” its job is to report the facts, not the “sides.” And if it’s opinion journalism, its job is to argue for the author’s side. “Neutral” journalism that settles for “telling both sides” isn’t quality journalism.

  10. Dorvann Malachi
    Dorvann Malachi April 19, 2021 6:10 am

    The past two columns remind me to keep in mind the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect as described by Michael Crichton when watching and reading news organizations:

    “Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward — reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.

    In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.”

    So basically it’s when experts forget how poorly their own subject is covered in the news and believe that subjects they don’t know anything about are covered intelligently by the same news.

  11. larryarnold
    larryarnold April 19, 2021 10:27 am

    As for telling “both sides” of a story, if the story is “straight news,” its job is to report the facts, not the “sides.” And if it’s opinion journalism, its job is to argue for the author’s side. “Neutral” journalism that settles for “telling both sides” isn’t quality journalism.
    Well, yes; “both sides” >> “all sides.”

    In an open public meeting we covered, a small-town politician, Luke, said, “My opponent, Pete, is such good friends to the liberal state-level politician, Bruce, that Pete introduced him at a local Moose Club meeting.”

    We reached out to Pete for his side of the story. He said, “Bruce is from the big city, and volunteered to speak at the meeting. I introduced him because I’m the V.P. in charge of speakers. Other than that, I’ve never spoken to Bruce.”

    The “facts” of that story, which we reported, are what Luke and Pete said. (The story of Bruce speaking ran earlier. We also ran a story about a Q and A candidate forum between Pete and Luke, and quoted their answers verbatim.)

    AFAIK everyone in our newsroom voted for the same candidate in this particular race, but we didn’t discuss that and did our level best to keep our readers from knowing which one it was by what’s on our pages.

    Our policy for local elections is to invite each candidate to submit one announcement of their candidacy, which we run with no more than minor editing. They are then free to purchase as many paid advertisements as they wish, which we run as presented.

    We aren’t perfect, but we think we do a pretty good job of being old-school journalists.

  12. Joel
    Joel April 19, 2021 10:41 am

    Not familiar with most of the companies on that chart but I can often get NPR on the Jeep’s radio. Seeing it described as a ‘great source of middle-of-the-road news’ is hilarious. Maybe 30 years ago. Not now.

  13. Daylan
    Daylan April 19, 2021 5:43 pm

    I figured most everything is click-bait, but now it seems most ‘news’ is down right attack dog. (with apologies to most dogs, which are more likely more intelligent than most ‘journalists’)

Leave a Reply