No, this Jeopardy! contestant was not making a white supremacist hand gesture

Conspiracy theories, knee-jerk tribal thinking and stubbornness are not confined to one end of the political spectrum, as this NYT analysis of a recent Jeopardy! conspiracy theory establishes. Mr. Donohue’s case is unusually clear-cut, and the allegation is obviously false. So the element of this story that interests me most is how the beating heart of nerdy, liberal fact-mastery can pump blood into wild social media conspiracy, and send all…

More Americans now see the media’s influence growing compared with a year ago

Americans’ views about the influence of the media in the country have shifted dramatically over the course of a year in which there was much discussion about the news media’s role during the election and post-election coverage, the COVID-19 pandemic and protests about racial justice. More Americans now say that news organizations are gaining influence than say their influence is waning, a stark contrast to just one year ago when the reverse was true.…

CNN reports Biden’s dog was “involved in another biting incident”

CNN’s headline: “Bidens’ dog Major involved in another biting incident,” but the story quotes the first lady’s press secretary as saying, “Major nipped someone on a walk.”  So there doesn’t seem to be any need to obscure the identify of the biter. I find the uncritical use of “biting incident” a bit troubling. The phrase “officer-involved shooting” is popular with bad apple cops who wish to conceal their violent actions.…

How a Supermoon Helped Free the Giant Container Ship From the Suez Canal

Powerful lead to this well-written news story. (Great use of embedded hyperlinks, too.) To get the giant container ship blocking the Suez Canal unstuck, engineers needed the stars to align. Actually, the sun, Earth and moon. After several days trying to dislodge the Ever Given cargo ship, which had veered off course and embedded itself in the side of the canal, the salvage team pinned their hopes on this week’s full…

Dennis G. Jerz | Associate Professor of English -- New Media Journalism, Seton Hill University | jerz.setonhill.edu Logo

For the record, if I should happen to be murdered by someone with a gun…

For the record, if I should happen to be murdered by someone with a gun, I grant all supporters of sensible gun control legislation full permission to politicize my death — as quickly as they like.   I reject any notion that the months, weeks, days, hours, and minutes after a violent firearm incident are “not the time for political debate.”   It’s everyone’s First Amendment right to criticize the…

Iowa Reporter Found Not Guilty By Jury After Arrest At Black Lives Matter Protest

Justice for a brave reporter arrested for doing her essential job, covering a Black Lives Matter demonstration. Thank goodness a fairly selected jury checked the actions of some bad-apple cops, including LEO Luke Wilson, who didn’t want to be observed while on the job. The founders of our nation understood that a healthy democracy requires a free press, not a corrupt police state that serves the interests of the powerful…

Royalty: For the Irish, it’s like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and, also, your grandfather was murdered by a clown.

When I lived in Canada, I had friends who were Monarchists, but I could never tell whether they were really serious about it. I am not at all into royal-watching, but I am definitely into this Irish Times story about the royal family. Having a monarchy next door is a little like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and has daubed their house with clown murals, displays clown dolls…

The Backstory: A reporter arrested while covering a protest faces trial Monday. Here’s why you should care.

Journalists are human, humans make mistakes, and no human journalist should be above criticism. In fact, cub reporters benefit greatly from making mistakes — it’s important for them to learn the consequences of spelling a name wrong or repeating a claim without checking it. However, general, unfocused contempt for “the media” is dangerous to a healthy democracy. Journalists arrested at last summer’s racial justice protests are still facing charges, jail time,…

Dr. Seuss Racism Controversy: A Dr. Seuss Expert Unpacks the Author’s History With Racism, Sexism

Nobody is banning, cancelling or censoring Dr. Seuss. Here’s some great context on why the Seuss estate is voluntarily retiring six titles that contain offensive racial stereotypes. One of the themes across Seuss’ work is the use of exotic, national, racial, and ethnic others as sources of humor. I don’t think he meant that with malice, but to use someone’s nationality or race as a punchline doesn’t land well, especially…

No, Dr. Seuss is not being “banned” or “censored” — but Dr. Seuss Enterprises is voluntarily retiring six books that contain racist stereotypes

It’s nothing new that Theodore “Dr. Seuss” Geisel used racist stereotypes, particularly in his wartime political cartoons. I’m seeing social media chatter from people who a few days ago were up in arms about the gender of a potato (which was overblown, manufactured hype) and who are now leaping to the defense of Dr. Seuss, who is (according to the memes) being “banned” or “cancelled.” In fact, it was the…

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I can’t believe I’m fact-checking a viral story about the gender of a plastic potato with detachable body parts.

  I can’t believe I’m fact-checking a viral story about a plastic potato, but Hasbro is removing the “Mr.” from its “Potato Head” logo, and offering a new mix-and-match package that includes two potato bodies, one baby potato, and a bunch of loose parts that will let kids put them together however they want. That doesn’t mean it’s discarding or re-gendering the Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head characters.  (Though the…

NASA’s Perseverance lander brought some Easter eggs with it to Mars

It’s a bit of a stretch to call this Teddy Roosevelt quote “encoded,” but it’s still fun to notice. We’re told to be on the lookout for more surprises as the mission develops. Systems engineer Ian Clark used a binary code to spell out “Dare Mighty Things” in the orange and white strips of the 70-foot (21-meter) parachute. Only about six people knew about the encoded message before Thursday’s landing,…

NASA! Mars!! Panorama!!! Video!!!! Audio!!!!!

New video from NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover chronicles major milestones during the final minutes of its entry, descent, and landing (EDL) on the Red Planet on Feb. 18 as the spacecraft plummeted, parachuted, and rocketed toward the surface of Mars. A microphone on the rover also has provided the first audio recording of sounds from Mars. From the moment of parachute inflation, the camera system covers the entirety of…