Recently Google and Facebook announced that they would be cracking down on ‘fake news’ sites that routinely make the rounds on social media with salacious headlines and outlandish stories. Many people rejoiced. We’ve all been annoyed by some ridiculous headline shared hysterically by a friend or family member.
“Obama to Imprison All White People!”
“Michelle Obama Says She Wishes America Would Catch Fire and Die!”
“George Bush Says He Hopes to Own Slaves One Day!”
It is supremely annoying that anyone makes those headlines, let alone shares them.
On Wednesday the L.A.Times published a compilation of ‘fake news’ sites written by an assistant professor at a Massachusetts college. Melissa Zimdars included a lot of verified ‘fake news’ sites, including Addicting Info and Being Liberal. Sadly she also included a few very established and legitimate news organizations as well.
Melissa Zimdars, an assistant professor of communication at Merrimack College in Massachusetts, put together a publicly available Google doc cataloging “False, misleading, clickbait-y and satirical ‘news’ sources.” It’s been making the rounds on social media as people seek to cleanse their newsfeeds of misinformation…
…”Not all of these sources are always or inherently problematic, neither are all of them fake or false,” Zimdars notes in the document. “… They should be considered in conjunction with other news/info sources due to their tendency to rely on clickbait headlines or Facebook descriptions, etc.”
Farther down, she gives tips for how people can identify potentially fake news. Things like strange domain names, unusual domain extensions, and using ALL CAPS should be warning signs. And make sure to look for who else is reporting the news: “Sometimes lack of coverage is the result of corporate media bias and other factors, but there should typically be more than one source reporting on a topic or event.”
Zimdars claims that not all of these sites are fake news. Some are identified as only using ‘misleading’ or ‘click-baity’ headlines. Of course, Redstate doesn’t belong in any of these categories, but it did not stop her from lumping us into one big “FAKERS WHO FAKE WRITE ABOUT FAKE THINGS!” category. As my colleague at Redstate points out, isn’t it funny that Buzzfeed – the originators of the click-bait headlines – are not on this?
Zimdars includes conservative media giants IJReview, The Blaze, and Redstate – all organizations that provide aggregate reporting and opinion pieces. Having worked for all three organizations at one point or another, I can say with full certainty that not one is a ‘fake news’ site – or even misleading.
In fact, RedState writers go to great lengths to debunk false stories they find in the media. RedState has produced some of the top conservative talents, including former Editor-in-Chief Erick Erickson, and regularly features articles submitted by members of the House and Senate and from presidential candidates. The RedState Gathering is covered by major media, and has top caliber speakers and was even the site of the announcement of a Presidential campaign (Rick Perry.) RedState content is regularly featured in the mainstream press and has been quoted frequently by even such old-school journalism outlets as The New York Times many times this year alone.
IJReview is based in Washington D.C. and has a very strong and lucrative relationship with Facebook, even teaming up with the social media behemoth to produce one of the primary debates. Their reputation on Capitol Hill is well-known, and politicians and high-profile media personalities regularly contribute guest posts.
The Blaze provides a lot of opinion pieces some people like Zimdars might disagree with, but they most certainly do not post ‘fake news’ or even misleading headlines. MSNBC regularly produces sensational headlines that aren’t backed up by the research but funny enough; they are nowhere on this list. No mainstream liberal reporting agency is on this list.
Zimdars’ list is making the rounds today, and it is outrageous. She needs to put herself on her list, as it is salacious and irresponsible and just a click-bait piece. The L.A.Times needs to be on this list for publishing it! Shame on you all.
Zimdars’ lack of perspective is dangerous. It affects the lives of good, hardworking writers who excel at bringing the latest news and opinion to their readers. This is not a game; this is our livelihood.
And the Los Angeles Times used a misleading combination of screenshot and text in a tweet about “fake” news, compounding the problem.
The L.A.Times and Zimdars owe our organization and others mentioned an apology and a retraction. I demand both, as an op-ed writer dedicated to honesty in opinion and reporting.
I hate the fake news sites as much as the next person, but I am incredibly leery of the powers-that-be at Google and Facebook having the power to block what they consider fake news. Someone has to make the judgment about what is fake, and that someone will come to the table with their ignorance and bias. That is extremely dangerous for good, honest writers who work for organizations like Redstate – conservative organizations that might not portray the same point of views as the 21-year-old college intern deciding what’s “fake” in the first place.
Mediaite’s Alex Griswold puts it best.