Fake News at 11: HuffPost Writer Has Tips to Suss It Out

“Fake news” is just the latest moniker for what journalists have long argued was the potential collateral damage in the decline of curated and edited news: The truth.

The issue has been much in the non-fake news of late with the attack on the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington and President-elect Donald Trump’s dropping of a transition team member over echoing fake news.

Dr. John Johnson took to The Huffington Post Web site last week — he is a regular contributor — to provide some tips on identifying fake news, advice that benefits not only news consumers, but the news producers who use the Web as a tip sheet.

1. “Who is reporting the story? Some media outlets are (much) more trustworthy than others. Is it possible for The Washington Post to publish a fake story? Of course. Is it likely that they’ll do this on a regular basis? Probably not, because their readership and reputation are built on trust. Consider the historical accuracy of the media outlets you follow.

2. “Who is the source? In today’s media-saturated environment, you don’t have to be a true expert to be heard — you just need to be loud and have an opinion. When you read the news, think carefully about the credentials of the people being quoted. What makes them an expert? Just because you have a million fans on Facebook or you’re a self-proclaimed ‘leading scientist’ doesn’t mean you actually know what you’re talking about.

3. “What are the facts? Unfortunately, facts are taking a bit of a beating these days. The Oxford Dictionary chose ‘post-truth’ as the word of the year. But if you want to be a smarter consumer of data, it’s more important than ever to look for information that is verifiably true — not just opinions and spin and false data. Here’s a simple trick: When you see a story and you’re not sure if it’s true, Google the headline and add the word ‘false.’ If the story isn’t true, you’re likely to get links from Snopes.com and other fact-checking sites explaining why it’s wrong.

4. “Is it a hoax? ‘Breaking: Two Explosions in the White House and Barack Obama is injured.’ That was the message posted by the Associated Press Twitter account on April 23, 2013. Investors panicked, stock prices plummeted, and the S&P 500 lost more than $136 billion over the course of just two minutes … It was all a hoax. The Associated Press was hacked. The news was wrong.”

To which The Wire would add: If it includes a reference to aliens, alien babies, Bat Boy, or Lindsay Lohan joining a convent, beware.

John Glenn Had The Right Stuff in Senate TV Debut

When news broke that astronaut and former U.S. senator from Ohio John Glenn had died at age 95, Twitter (specifically NBC News and MSNBC anchor Andrea Mitchell) reminded the world of the late Marine Corps veteran’s wisdom and humor by sharing a nearly three-minute clip from C-SPAN on June 2, 1986.

On that day, C-SPAN2 began carrying live coverage from the Senate chamber.

Noting that he had voted for TV coverage “because I do think the people of this country have a right to know,” Glenn said he had some reservations about whether the cameras would change the way things operate in the Senate. Senators had been given training about not holding the mike or rubbing against it on one’s jacket, he demonstrated, and said “those of us with thinning hairlines” were urged not to lean forward into the camera “because that will give a poor impression.”

Barely suppressing a smile, Glenn demoed how senators had been shown how to apply makeup to the top of their heads, using a compact mirror and a brush. He said senators were advised not to, “as I did today, come in with a plain old white shirt and a summer tie, heaven forbid.” He held up a red tie and said perhaps the people of Ohio would like to judge how they’d like to see him attired in the United States Senate.

“I’m sure that none of us will do a thing differently in the Senate of the United States now that we are on television,” he concluded. The Wire suspects he was proven right, though mostly in the breach, and join those wishing him #godspeed.

— Kent Gibbons

Have a Ball On New Year’s Eve With Live N.Y. Feed

Cable operators looking for a free ticket to B-roll, pre-packaged and anchored live coverage of New York’s iconic Times Square New Year’s Eve ball-drop and attendant activities, look no further.

The Times Square Alliance is again offering “clean and uninterrupted” HD satellite and fiber feeds of the festivities to both domestic and international news outlets, including panoramic views from 20 camera positions, and countdowns. Free footage will also include a webcast host, correspondents and musical talent.

Also available is some pre-roll, as it were, of preparations including the “numeral arrival” on Wednesday, Dec. 14, the “[Waterford] Crystal [ball] installation” on Saturday, Dec. 17, and the “confetti test” on Thursday, Dec. 29.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.