Jill "xtingu" Knapp

Traveling musician. Singer. Road warrior in bursts. Dork. Easy to spot. Gauche eyeshadow fan. Unreasonably happy.

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Honest, sincere question:

What does a news article or report need so you'll consider it "not fake"?   I imagine some folks may just dismiss any news they disagree with as "fake news."  But I'm trying to assess what criteria need to be satisfied in order for someone to accept that what is being presented, whether they agree with the article's viewpoint or not, as "reported accurately."

I acknowledge that humans are gloriously imperfect, and that it is physically impossible to report something without imparting some molecule of bias/slant.  But anyway.

If you are left-leaning, are you capable of reading an article from Breitbart or PrisonPlanet and evaluate it with the mindset that it could potentially be accurate? If the Washington Post cites a source "who only spoke on the condition of anonymity," would you be more apt to believe it's "real" and not "fake?" What if Breitbart cited an anonymous source? Would you instantly think, "This is bullshit" and roll your eyes? What if they interviewed Comey directly?

If you are fervent Trump supporter, is it even possible for you to read something on The Huffington Post or even the Washington Post and believe it's within the realm of possibility that it may be accurate? What if they cite an anonymous source? What if they cite a primary source? What if they interviewed Comey himself, for example? 

What criteria need to be met for you to feel satisfied that the reporter is reporting accurate information?  Do you need unedited video from Trump himself? If he were incriminating himself, would you dismiss it as doctored video? 

I'm struggling with this.

(x-posted to DW.)

5/15 '17 44 Comments
Conditions of anonymity have to be respected. If the news the anonymous source reports is specific enough, the source might not matter.

"A Mar-A-Lago source speaking on condition of anonymity said that after Mr. Trump was served roasted beet salad by an elderly waitress, he said, "No servers over the age of 30 willever be hired in America again, that's it, final, only 25 year old waitresses with big sparkly tits."
Yep, I definitely respect those anonymous sources. But I see myself nodding in perfect, blind, this-is-totally-factual agreement whenever it's printed in the NYTimes, slightly less but still in the high 90th percentile when it's cited by WaPo... but if Breitbart quoted an anonymous source I'd laugh and roll my eyes. Which is... I guess... dumb?

I used to get this thing from the NYTimes that said "Here are some well-written, well-researched articles from the right that you might wanna read to get out of your lefty echo chamber." I found it immeasurably helpful... until it stopped automatically arriving to my inbox. (Must investigate.)
Please let us know if you rediscover this. I would like to check it out.
Seconded. I am too much in the echo box or just taking a break altogether. This is no-goodnik.
Karen Kuhl 5/18 '17
Here's today's NYT round-up of good writing from both sides:

Writing From Right and Left: Reactions on a Special Counsel, and More https://nyti.ms/2qvqL4o
I would also like to know how to get my tits to sparkle. Are the tits themselves sparkly, or are they just wearing a disco-ball bra?

Fortunately for you, I have a bag of breast sparkles RIGHT HERE. Just fly on out.

Happy to be of service.
Matt Lichtenwalner 5/16 '17edited
Sometimes sparkle is in the eye of the beholder.
Karen Kuhl 5/18 '17
These are excellent questions. To be honest, I take everything with a huge-ass grain of salt these days, no matter the source. This comes from (my perception of) what happened during the primaries, with Bernie being systematically left out of many of the sources I used to trust. When I say this, I am often met with backlash but... it is what it is. Everything you raise in this post deserves a lot more good, hard thinkng.
Leela 5/15 '17
Yeah, it's definitely easy for me to point the fingers at the "dumbasses on the alt-right." But they're doing the same thing to lefties, and we all think we're right, and we all cannot comprehend how the other side can feel the way they do.

The much-bashed MSM has a lot of motivation to get the story right.

For one - their subscribers and advertisers demand it.

If the NYTimes made up stories and got busted - and they will - they kill their own integrity. It's devastating - subscribers to the Times, the Washington Post, watchers of the evening news and CNN, etc. are expecting the stories they read/see to be accurate. The more stories they botch, the more subscribers and advertisers they lose. To most media outlets that actually make money, journalistic integrity isn't just a plaque on a wall - it's the core of their survival.

In other words: they have accountability.

Super-partisan outlets, from Fox News to PoliticusUsa, care less about accuracy and more about making their readers happy. Their audience wants to be told they are right, and so the stories will be skewed in that direction. Accuracy isn't as importance as obsiquiousness. (That's why I don't consider Fox News a news outlet.) Still, they have advertisers too, and if they're humiliated repeatedly with bad stories, even people who pay their bills will rebel.

Sure, the Times, Washington Post, etc. are going to make sure Trump takes a punch or two in their stories. It's only fair - he started it. But there's a reason the Times has started the much-derided practice of "positive stories about Trump every Sunday" - they need to show to the dunderheads that "liberal bias" doesn't define them. It's easy to find cases where the NYT uncovered stories that hurt the "left" - they broke the story about Hillary's ill-fated email server, after all.

Now, none of this is to suggest that the MSM doesn't get it wrong sometimes. It happens. Reporters manufacture stories (sup, Stephen Glass) or get fooled by bad intel (the final season of The Wire was based on the true story of cops "inventing" a serial killer in order to direct funding to the department; this really happened). Sometimes the reporters misunderstand the information in front of them. Or sometimes, they're simply lied to - this happened to the Wilmington News Journal, who retracted an entire dynamic story based on the subject's delusional lies. (I know the subject. She lied.)

But reputable media sources point out their errors and clean up the story, and make it clear they were wrong. "Alt" media doesn't bother - they justify their error by saying "well, it COULD have been true."

I think it's our responsibility to take stories at face value. The recent story about Trump spilling a crucial piece of intel to the Russians was carefully parsed by the Times; they framed it as "our sources say this." But it's clear they have FAITH in their sources, and that's the crux of Jill's question: should she have faith in their sources, too?

To decide, look at the track record. Look at their win/loss record. That's your best bet. It won't be 1.000, but the MSM is still doing a bang-up job.

By now, the Times story been corroborated - by Trump himself - and several sources claim Israel is the country that has been providing us with great intel. Israel is reportedly quite furious about Trump's leak.

Is that true? We'll see. If so, it's a feather in the MSM's cap - and another reason to trust them.

Here's the thing, though. The Trump campaign really did change the rules. Before him, truth mattered. But he proved you can absolutely lie, contradict yourself, and lie again and it doesn't matter WITH A CERTAIN CROWD. (What motivates that crowd? Everything from extreme right politics to a need to feel like their memes actually make a difference.) Truth doesn't matter - an effective lie is as desirable as just telling the truth. But THEY HAVE NO ACCOUNTABILITY. If they're wrong, they ignore it and move on.

BUT. These people in Washington? The ones with jobs who have to deal with the NYTimes reports? When reporters ask them to comment on a story they know is damaging, they're in a tough spot. If they deny it and it turns out to be true, their credibility gets damaged - at best. Look at McMaster - his first statement was a bit of Nathan Thurm wordplay, but then he was more blunt in his denials. There's a consequence to that. McMaster is now widely considered a liar. That's not a great look for a Trump staffer at this moment.

And that's the final step on the circle of journalistic life. Real people are asked to confirm the news. In the real world - er, rather, DC - people take a huge political risk denying what they know to be true. Especially when there are so many staffers who WANT to leak Trump's Follies to the press. (Along these lines - WaPo and NYT have both said they've dealt with lots of deliberate fake "intel" from people who want to discredit them. It's a tricky business. Everyone thinks they're the Joker.)

Oh - and sources have been anonymous since the inception of American journalism. They HAVE to be. Their bosses don't want people talking to the press. But they do it, because they need the press to get the word out there and stop the madness. People who cry "reveal your sources or GTFO!" can be defined in one word:


So Buzzfeed is that site that makes you answer questions about tacos to tell you what narwhal you are. But they are actually great for long-term stories - Ben Smith is widely respected for his political journalism. And yes, they lead the way in clickbaity headlines, but I think that's just the way of the present - it's a fight to the death for clicks out there. So get used to it. But Buzzfeed is no joke when it comes to reporting that makes a difference - look how they raised the hood on the alt-right dogwhistling of Million Dollar Extreme Presents: World Peace, causing Adult Swim to cancel them. The author got heavily attacked and threatened by the sniveling fans of the show (and ultimately, geez, who cares), but it was excellent, informative, sourced journalism.

There are many "journalists" who don't answer to anybody. They have no accountability. That doesn't make them always wrong - sometimes they have sources too (Mike Cernovich has "his people" inside the WH, after all). But it literally doesn't matter when he's wrong. He loses nothing. Not like the MSM.

This was a long and serious post. Sorry about that. Let me make it up to you: An old woman goes to the doctor. "Doc, I have a problem with gas. I fart 10 times a day. Fortunately they're silent and don't stink - in fact, I've farted twice and you have no idea." The Doc says "I see. Take these pills and see me next week." Next week: "Doc, my farts are still silent, but now they stink! What the hell?" Doc says "Great! Now that we've cleared up your sinuses, let's work on your hearing."
Matt Casarino 5/17 '17
You're like smart and stuff.
I think all investigative journalism should end in a joke as a reward for getting that far.

A follow up question : You say the MSM has accountability. But to whom? By whom? Who stands up to the Times and says "You got this wrong" (or "LOL cuck libtard fake news!")? Who watches the watchmen?
Jill "xtingu" Knapp 5/17 '17edited
Two little old ladies run into each other at the supermarket.
One says to the other, "Barbara, you've got a suppository in your ear!"
Barbara says, "What?" After several rounds of negotiations, Barbara says, "Great, now I know where my hearing aid is."
I could give you an answer to this, but why reinvent the wheel? UW offers an entire university course on the subject now.

The syllabus, all of the lectures and homework, and a bunch of additional resources are all available for free online.


CM Adams 5/16 '17edited
I also found this fascinating and highly helpful:

CM Adams 5/16 '17
Oooh! Thank you!
I love my smart friends. Daaaang.
Well, looky here! Thank you!
(Love the URL, BTW.)
There's also the idea of emotional appeal. For example, WaPo and NYTimes don't care about feelings, just facts. If the facts evoke an emotional reaction, great. Click bait news sites tend to hyperbolize with emotionally charged language.
Ya know? I used to think that, too.

If we're talking about The Times, I agree with your assessment of facts over feelings. But WaPo's headlines are increasingly BuzzFeedy / clickbaity and I'm starting to seek out the more even-handed companion article on the NYTimes after I read the waaaaaaay biased article on WaPo. (And don't get me wrong, I am WaPo's target audience. I agree with their leftiness. I love them. But maaaaan, those headlines are getting soooo annoying (or at least how they're summarized in my 3x-day emails I get from them).

Here are some examples from today (because it's the first one I grabbed):

--Trump doesn’t embody what’s wrong with Washington. Pence does. The president is crazy. What’s everyone else’s excuse?

-- The experts were right: Trump isn’t fit to be president

-- ‘I was in total shock’: Ohio police officer accidentally overdoses after traffic stop

-- Bill Gates told new grads to read this book. Now it’s surging on Amazon.

-- Paul Ryan might regret having said this about Hillary Clinton

I mean, I'm surprised those headlines don't say "Hosted by Outbrain" or "Zergnet" after them. I get that newspapers need to sell subscriptions and ads... so I bought subscrptions to WaPo and NYT right after the election. The NYT just feels fairer to my eyeballs.
Jill "xtingu" Knapp 5/16 '17edited
Yeah, sometimes I have to search out the same story on multiple news sites and let my brain sift it a bit. I like getting American news from British sites (BBC, The Independent, The Guardian) because the distance means they talk in broader terms. It's calmer.

Avoid The Daily Mail.
Daily Mail = NO NO NO.

I do occasionally dabble in The Guardian, but seem to recall maxxing out on free articles and forgetting the incognito window trick. Thanks for the reminder!
Okay, before I go clicking around in the darker corners of the intarwebs, what's with Daily Mail?
It's basically the UK's version of the New York Post, mixed with a little National Enquirer.

By way of example, they're the ones who doxxed the grad student in one of my labs who was auctioning off her virginity online a few years ago. One of their reporters showed up at her lab to harass her ("don't you want to tell your side of the story?") and I had to run him off.
CM Adams 5/17 '17
BUT, and this is probably bad, they ran the story about Sean Spicer's college nickname, verifiably.

Broken clock, etc.
Yes. They're not particularly fake news. More just sleazy shitty news.
CM Adams 5/17 '17
Got it. No Daily Mail.

Daily Mail is great for shitty gossip, not so much for news. Sometimes I read it as a guilty pleasure!
Have you seen that things going around from Oatmeal about beliefs &changing your mind? ... Thing thingy (I googled it for ya) http://theoatmeal.com/comics/believe

Ursula Sadiq 5/16 '17
Yeah. I love that.

I love the Oatmeal in general, but that hits extra hard these days.
Oooh! I hadn't seen this! Thank you! I typically like how the Oatmeal boils stuff down.

((Clicks through))

I instinctively eye roll for pretty much everything from the Right. I don't _want_ to. For a while, I looked for a source that I could 'trust' and get some balance. I wasn't able to find one. I'm uncertain how much of that is a failure on my own part to not respond with a knee jerk reaction as soon as I started reading.

For a little while, I got really high on my horse about it though. This seemed like 'proof' of the wrongness of the Right. "They can't even write a simple article anywhere that just states facts. It's all emotional bullshit."

But in the end, I'm not that naive. "We're" doing it too.

Even valued papers like WaPo and NYTimes. Because here's the thing: their job isn't to be unbiased. It's to sell newspapers. In a world where that's getting harder and harder to do, even they are succumbing to the 'cheap shots' that are click bate-y headlines and emotional wording. Leading their audience to an emotional response. Because people who get worked up about something link to their articles.

One of the podcasts I listen to This Week in Google ( https://twit.tv/shows/this-week-in-google ) or TWiG has a regular contributor by the name of Jeff Jarvis. He's long been a journalist and is doing work on a number of things involved with the theme of "How do we 'fix' journalism and hold news sources accountable in the digital age?" He's a bit curmudgeonly (in a way that I think you would adore) and while I don't always agree with him, I give him extreme props for being well thought out and forward thinking.

Bottom line is that I don't have a good answer, unfortunately. My own 'solution' is completely unacceptable. Burying your head in the sand does nothing. It helps nothing. It improves nothing.

So I commend you for trying to figure out a set of criteria for more valid sources. It's a great goal. I'm going to do some more thinkin' on the subject and if I come up with anything, I'll let you know.
This seems of value, so I tossed them a few bucks. I hope it launches:
Hell yes.
Podcasts: Left, Right and Center (discussion of current events/politics between three people with said POV, some change week to week).
Democracy Decoded: ex-lobbyist tells you how Washington really works, helps explain current events, more fact-based than opinion-based.
But you will love Science Vs. it analyzes political issues that are science-based, like fracking and climate change and the podcasters are from Australia.
These sound perfect-- thank you! Podcasts aren't a regular part of my media consumption, but it looks like maybe it should be.
Podcasts are good for boring car rides and plane rides (for plane, download your episodes before you take off).
These sound great - thanks!
I look for specificity and source citations.

Bad example: "A source close to the White House said that a sealed envelope containing personal information was delivered to the Russian consulate."

Good example: "Wendy Higgerton, White House chief of flatware, said that she sent a thank you note to Sascha Bierlislubovitz of the Russian Consulate, for their gift of seven oyster forks."
I love you SO MUCH.
I live to serve. :)
Yeah. That was a pretty great set of examples. (Why does that sound dirty?)

Also, I will just say that I think it pretty solidly covers what I look for, though I too am struggling. A lot.

In fact, my greatest fault right now is that I'm playing Ostrich and burying my head and 'hiding' because I can't really read ANY article without immediately punching holes in it and coming away thinking "that was completely biased bullshit" - even from the side I agree with.
My podcast habit is hurting. I used to listen to about 3-4 hours a day of podcasts- smart, dumb, weird, and Whatever Happened To Pizza At McDonald's?, but right now I haven't been able to feed that habit enough.