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Hal BidlackHal BidlackApril 20, 20186min243

I’ve written before on bias in the media, and how polarized our country has become. Readers may recall that I compared the current political unpleasantness to our nation in roughly 1850, when the notion that disagreement also meant disloyalty and likely enemy status. I also wrote on what I called bold hypocrisy, wherein some national leaders, our current President in particular, tell falsehoods at a record pace, denying demonstrably true “facts” (remember when they said there was nomeeting in Trump Tower? Then there wasa meeting, but it was about Russian adoption? And then it was about…oh shut up!) And if you are a Trump supporter, admit it – when you read that last bit, you thought to yourself, “oh yeah? Well, the liberal-mainstream-dishonest media is the one telling the lies.” Right?


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Kara MasonKara MasonFebruary 23, 20184min796

Chances are you’ve seen fake news pass through your social media feeds, but are you good at spotting it? Two Colorado State University-Pueblo seniors set out to find out last spring. Now, they are taking their research on fake news on the road and around the globe to present at two conferences.

Chianna Schoenthaler and Michele Bedard, both mass communications students, sought to determine whether “there is a correlation between a media consumer’s understanding of the difference between satirical news versus fake news and varying socio-demographic factors” as part of a research class.

In other words, the students said they wanted to know who was more likely to believe actual fake news — not satire that’s created for entertainment, or clickbait, but news that’s made up to achieve a goal, most often politically.

Sam Ebersole, who taught the research class, had the students design a research project that was in some way related to the topic of fake news — a buzzword that was constantly on the minds of politicos and those in the media throughout and following the 2016 election. Now, Bedard and Schoenthaler say they see it everywhere, and it hasn’t become at all less frequent since they started their research more than a year ago.

The students found in their small sample size that people who identified as independent were able to better pick out fake news, Ebersole said. Republicans were the least likely to. Democrats fell somewhere in the middle.

Participants ranged from young adults — college freshmen — to seasoned media professionals.

Most surprising to the two student researchers? The lack of current event knowledge among young people, they said.

“I just assumed so many other students would have that same outlook that they need to be literate in the media. It was kind of disturbing, really,” Bedard said.

Schoenthaler said, as anticipated, young people use social media as a main source of news. But they’re more likely to believe a headline based on the source and whether that source has a reputation for being truthful or leaning to a certain end of the political spectrum.

Now, they’re presenting that research at the Web Conference 2018 in Lyon, France — a prestigious international conference about the future of the World Wide Web — and at the DePauw University Honors Research Conference in Indiana.

And the research keeps becoming even more relevant. When special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian citizens for conspiring to interfere with the 2016 election last week, Bedard said she feels that it’s good there’s action being taken on the subject of fake news.

The students and Ebersole now joke that they may never get completely away from fake news. Ebersole said he keeps a Google Drive folder of fake news headlines. And the students have a running list they’re always adding to, too.

“I don’t know if any of us can be savvy enough,” Ebersole said of the growing number of stories he now sees. “Sometimes I look at these things and say wow that is extremely clever how they presented it.”


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJanuary 29, 201817min459

Let conservatives go ahead and wave off his brand of journalism as slanted and partisan if they so choose; Jason Salzman readily owns up to his leftward leanings — but he'll tell you facts are facts. The onetime Rocky Mountain News media critic turned progressive blogger, who gamely takes on Colorado's right-of-center political pantheon, says his bias doesn't stand in the way of his journalistic standards. Which is why, as he notes in today's Q&A, he goes after pols, typically on the right, when he feels they're trading in fake news. It's also why he calls out newsfolk (I've been among them) if he thinks they fall short of their mark.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirDecember 22, 20175min934
Snopes.com concluded the above collage — a staple of Facebook news feeds — was doctored. (Facebook.com via Snopes.com)

As we prepare to close out 2017, the mania over #FakeNews probably warrants a last hurrah before giving way to 2018’s hottest hashtags. Jason Salzman’s left-leaning media watchdog, The Big Media Blog, has released its “Colorado Fake News Awards 2017” as part of its campaign to call out those on the political right who use social media to share headlines that range from questionable to comical — as if they were gospel.

Salzman, a veteran antagonist of all things GOP, makes no secret of his partisan tilt and, fairly or otherwise, reserves his dubious distinctions for elected Republicans. State Sen. Ray Scott, of Grand Junction gets the “Crusader for a Fact-Free Colorado! Award”;  the “Who the F*** Cares about the Facts? Award” is bestowed on House Minority Leader Patrick Neville of Castle Rock, and so forth.

Salzman’s choice of offenders notwithstanding — and whether or not they actually realized at least some of their posts lacked veracity — a lot of the content itself is almost worthy of the tabloid rack at your local supermarket:

Scott refused to remove from his Facebook page a fake news item titled, “WikiLeaks CONFIRMS Hillary Sold Weapons to ISIS…Then Drops Another BOMBSHELL! Breaking News.” He also refused to delete a tweet with this ridiculous (and fake) quote from Ronald Reagan about Trump: “For the life of me, and I’ll never know how to explain it, when I met that young man, I felt like I was the one shaking hands with a president.”

Fake is in the eye of the beholder, of course, and some of the content Salzman skewers is arguably more selective than fake. Here’s his criticism of posts on illegal immigration by Colorado Springs Republican state Rep. Dave Williams (for whom illegal-immigration-bashing has indeed become a hobby horse):

… you’d think they were responsible for 83 percent of crimes committed on American soil if you only got your news from the Facebook timeline of state Rep. Dave Williams (R-Colo. Springs). … Williams’ vastly disproportionate focus on immigrant crime deceives his Facebook followers into believing that undocumented immigrants are dangerous, when in reality, they’re more likely to be law-abiding citizens, and may actually cause crime to decline in their communities.

Unrepresentative, maybe, but is it untrue? The specific crime stories Williams chooses to post may well be accurate.

Meanwhile, here’s another question: Does this kind of stuff really have the potential to sway anyone beyond the most marginal voters?

Or, is it no more detrimental to democracy than, say, news of space aliens abducting the Olsen twins?

Come to think of it, we haven’t heard from them in a while.

 

This one wasn’t fodder for The Big Media Blog’s “Colorado Fake News Awards 2017,” but it merits an honorable mention in our book. For the record, Hillary Clinton never met Osama bin Laden. As far as we know. (Facebook.com)


Hal BidlackHal BidlackNovember 22, 20176min1875

Back in the mid 1990’s, I was sent by the Air Force Academy to the University of Michigan to pursue a Ph.D., after which I returned to the USAFA faculty to continue teaching. During that grad school stint, we chose to live in a small town about 45 minutes north of Ann Arbor. We enjoyed the small town atmosphere, including Fourth of July parades with lots of tractors and summer youth concerts in the town square. And thank you, kindly tax payers, for affording me that opportunity. It was great!


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyOctober 10, 20173min505

It played a significant role in our last presidential election, possibly swaying the result. It’s easily spread far and wide on social media platforms. It’s even often used by President Donald Trump to fire back at media outlets after negative press. It’s become a buzzword in our modern politics. Fake news.

And as National Public Radio noted in an article last December, fake news can have real-life consequences, like an incident at a Washington D.C. pizzeria, where a man wielding a rifle and claiming to be “self-investigating” an online conspiracy theory entered the shop and fired his weapon.

Experts argue media literacy is the answer to countering misleading content. Now, the Denver Public Library is joining the fight against fake news — offering classes to help students build the literacy skills required to consume media and cull out what’s fake.

Appropriately called How to Spot Fake News and offered through the library’s reference services, the course will arm students with tricks and tools for looking at websites, news articles “and their crazy uncle’s emails with a more critical eye.”

In designing the course, the library will use tools from the International Federation of Library Associations including an infographic, based on a FactCheck.org article, with tips for spotting misleading news.

“Fake news and other misinformation spreads because people share it without realizing what it is,” the library said in a post on the City of Denver website. “That means the only way to stop it is to learn to spot it, so we can stop it in its tracks instead of helping it spread.”

The library is offering instruction in the classroom or at the Central Library and even the lesson plan to educators. Email Robin Filipczak for more information.


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Ernest LuningErnest LuningJune 30, 20174min443

After news broke this week that three CNN reporters had been fired because of problems with a story about Donald Trump and Russia, former Republican Colorado Sen. Shawn Mitchell entertained the notion in a social media post that "the guillotines will be kept busy" taking care of "hack reporters and seditious leakers" if there's karmic justice in the world, though he later said he was just kidding.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyFebruary 22, 201712min422

A political quarrel erupted earlier this month, garnering the attention of national media, after a state Republican lawmaker accused his hometown newspaper of publishing “fake news” and was subsequently threatened with a lawsuit. At the center of the fray: Sen. Ray Scott, The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel and the delay of a hearing for Senate Bill 40, which would update the state’s open records law. Scott told The Colorado Statesman that as chair of the state Senate’s Veteran and Military Affairs committee, he was asked for the delay to address security concerns brought forth by legislators and a "substantial list" of public entities.