Journalism ethics and the elephant in the room.

I touched up an old handout on conflict of interest. Given Trump’s attitude toward the profession of journalism (which is far less convenient for him than presenting his unfiltered messages directly to his followers), this is a topic to watch closely. The point of “the Rosenthal Rule” is not to penalize any one political viewpoint; rather, the cub reporter who wanted to march in a protest has such a strong…

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The Left has a post-truth problem too. It’s called comedy.

As I gear up to teach about memes and fake news in a “Media Aesthetics” class, I am keeping track of good background articles so I can bring my students up to speed. Satire, like fake news, creates a sense of community through rejection. It delights in tearing down institutions but is useless at constructing them. Jonathan Swift said that satire was a mirror in which viewers discovered everybody’s face…

This Is How Tyranny Begins (Robert Reich)

As the faculty advisor to a college journalism program, I am very interested in the relationship between professional journalists and the president-elect. A free press is a cornerstone of democracy. The GOP played the electoral college game better than the DNC, such that Clinton’s popular vote did not match the electoral college outcome. Media pundits who were hopeful for and enamored of Clinton badly underestimated Trump’s popularity in certain states — a blindness…

Fake News Is Not the Real Media Threat We’re Facing

Conservative talk radio predates the Internet as a populist alternative to the mainstream media. This article challenges the idea that “fake news” is a new, or even a significant problem, and instead explores how some celebrity conservatives (including radio host Rush Limbaugh) encourage their followers to mistrust traditional news outlets. Fake news has been around as long as real news, as any historian of early modern Europe can tell you (Renaissance…

A Merry Look at Journalism in “The Year Without a Santa Claus”

In the classic stop-action TV special “The Year Without a Santa Claus” (1974), newspaper headlines provide exposition and offer a low-budget way to depict widespread reaction to the events of the plot. Newspapers also introduce a plot hole that’s bothered me ever since I was a kid. When I watched the show again this year, I noticed some typographical oddities in the prop newspapers. First of all, the elves have…

Now you can fact-check Trump’s tweets — in the tweets themselves

The Washington Post, which was one of about a dozen news outlets that Trump banned from his campaign events for a few months this summer, has released a Chrome browser plugin that adds Post-sponsored commentary into Trump’s Twitter feed. Sometimes the Post says the commentary will simply add context, but they are announcing it as a fact-checking tool. We made a tool that slips a bit more context into Trump’s…

Vanessa Otero’s Complex vs. Clickbait, Liberal vs. Conservative Media Chart

Vanessa Otero created an impressive chart that visualizes the problem with a simplistic “real news / fake news” dichotomy. News that skews left or right can still be valuable, and news that scrupulously avoids bias can still be vacuous clickbait. While you or I might disagree on whether the HuffPo/Occupy Democrats oval really parallels the Fox News / RedState oval, or we might quibble over the placement of some of…