M5 Reflection

Electionland was an attempt to track and cover in real-time election-day issues. As Claire mentioned in the Q&A, the project “missed the story” in some ways because it didn’t track the disinformation campaign leading up to the election. Using the verification techniques that fueled Electionland, what story/event would you like cover in real time that way? Why would this sort of coverage be appropriate for that story/event? What do you think you could uncover?


  1. It was refreshing to see someone say what’s really going on in journalism. Wardle is right, we are at war with the manipulation of information and this was first time in this new environment where I felt like we have a chance.

    In some of my other classes, I’ve railed against what Wardle calls the “News Ecosystem.” Newsrooms don’t talk to each other and there are so many “reputable” news providers, that we’ve gotten comfortable reporting other outlets “reports.” It’s so dangerous because we don’t know what the standards are for that outlet. One source reporting is becoming the norm and that’s scary.
    When you add in the element of impostors, it can make legitimate journalists look bad. I see this happen most in sports on Twitter, where a story can trend from a fake account in just the way Wardle described. Some of it is as simple as just fact-checking the account before retweeting it.

    Last summer, the Cubs & the White Sox made a HUGE trade. That’s not something that happens very often and it was the Sox Twitter account who broke the story. Even with the blue check mark, I called the Sox media relations team to verify. Sportscasters routinely retweet impostor accounts of Adrian Wojnarowski, who has an incredible knack for breaking stories. In the industry we call them “Woj Bombs” and now there are multiple fake accounts that put out bad trades close to the deadline. That’s on a very small and insignificant scale compared to what has happened in the political process, but as quickly as we’re processing information, passing stuff along is extremely easy with retweet button and we need to do a better job of just taking the next logical step and verifying the account.

    The tutorial on verifying images was extremely helpful and I’ve already used Spokeo to spy on myself (BTW, it got my address wrong, which is good for me, don’t want anyone running up to the wrong house).

    I had never heard of 4Chan and now I can’t unsee it. Sub-Redditts are pretty big in sports and we’ve seen some news break there. In fact, that same Cubs-Sox trade was first speculated by a user named “wetbutt23.” Again, something that I can’t unsee.

    The point about consistent messaging is spot on and I think it played a big role in CNN’s latest set of promos. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vckz6EAn30Y

  2. Being one chooses to be open to both left- and right-leaning media, I have many thoughts on this topic. With the techniques learned in this lesson, I would love to do research on fake news in general. I would love to cover fake news, but I wouldn’t just cover only liberal or only conservative news networks and organizations. I would focus on any sign of fake news from American news networks or organizations. I could either focus on news organizations leaning one way politically and get a story that’s good, or focus on news organizations with leanings on both sides of the political spectrum and get a story that’s better. Fake news is fake news no matter where it comes from, and I would want to jump on it.

    Those who share and perpetuate fake news really concern me. Why would people press on with something that is fake news? Either they’re blind or they realize it’s fake news but stick with it anyway without caring about the repercussions. It could also be because they broke a story originally and it ended up being fake news, but their pride got the better of them and they refused to admit the error. Regardless, unfortunately, we live in a world where journalism has become all about selective truths in favor of higher ratings and making more money. For example, if it’s a news talk show, I only have 20+ minutes of TV time. I have to choose which news is worth discussing. No matter what the measure is, I am limited with how much I can communicate. I may have 200 truths about a story but I can’t communicate all of them due to time or space limitations. Therefore, I am forced to choose which truths to present or communicate. Often, that choice is made for me by the producer, director, or editor. Even when I get to choose, I have to struggle with my own biases. An honest reporter struggles with her biases.

    The sad truth is that people don’t want to hear the news so much as be entertained by the news.

    Side note: It disappoints me that journalists still don’t look to Reddit. I used to mock people who looked to Reddit because literally anyone can create an account and post something, as Claire discussed regarding ABC. However, I know several people in the professional sphere who depend on Reddit for unbiased news, as surprising as that may sound. I don’t look at Reddit, myself, because I found all the threads to be overwhelming. (Plus, it was a fad among the cool tech/gamer nerds when I was in high school and middle school. )

  3. I know nothing is private on the internet, but it’s pretty incredible and scary how much information you can find out about someone with just five minutes of digging. And Tweetdeck seems like a very useful means of getting information. I knew of it, but I didn’t realize you could have columns devoted to different hashtags, terms, and people.

    I think these kinds of verification techniques with real-time coverage would be useful for disasters, natural or man-made. It’s so easy for misinformation and fake images to spread during those kinds of events, and the urgency doesn’t leave a lot of time for verification. But a quick background check could go a long way in making sure information is coming from a reliable source or at least a normal person and not a troll or that it didn’t originate on 4chan.

    It’s important to not only avoid spreading misinformation but to help correct it, especially in moments when people are afraid. These techniques can help us ensure we’re showing people what’s really happening.

  4. Initially I was going to mention a case where the Nashville Mayor resigned. I thought about how I was on my phone searching for the latest information from numerous outlets and journalists. The day the story broke, she was at the jailhouse, courthouse, and Mayor’s Office in a matter of minutes. She turned herself in, was booked, plead guilty, and then resigned within an hour. The media got wind of it a couple hours before hand, but the details were sketchy. However, I followed trustworthy sources. I think the verification techniques in this module are more for situations where there is a level of uncertainty.

    To that point, I saw a post today about from a basketball game in which a player pushed an opponent while the kid was in the air dunking a basketball. The kid went flying feet past the basket and hit the base of the backboard, he then bounced hard to the wooden floor. I actually thought it was a fake video until I saw it somewhere else a couple hours later. I think that would be a great story to cover with these techniques.

    I didn’t verify anything. Technically, it still could be a fake video. But, I saw it so many places on reputable websites, and then I noticed it from a different angle from the original post and believed it to be legitimate. With a crowded game and multiple angles of the video, those techniques would be ideal in tracking down verification information.

  5. As someone who is entering into the teaching field, it is very alarming to see a sudden rise of gun violence in schools. On top of that, we know that with the Florida shooting that occured a few weeks ago there has been a increase in debate over gun control and the tightening of gun laws. For me, it is interesting to view this debate on both sides of the political spectrum, liberal and conservative. While I hold my own beliefs, I can see some of the arguments from an opposing side that do also make sense. In the current climate, however, it seems that many opinions are not necessarily welcome on social media. As such, it has become somewhat hard to find any actual facts about the gun violence as it is being hidden by some form of propaganda or this intense debate going on.

    Because of this, I feel as though monitoring different media outlets during an event like this would, not only be very interesting, but very beneficial to those who want to know the truth. I think that many people are quick to forget about the victims and their families, and instead choose to focus on the debate, pushing an agenda or defending an agenda against by talking about the political issues, which means they often lose sight of the tragedy itself. A lot of people do not want to turn into a news program that is inherently biased and see someone blaming guns or see someone arguing why we need to arm teachers. Some people just want to know who the shooter was, how many people were hurt, have the police been able to stop them, etc. Therefore, a project like Electionland could track the news stories, find what is opinion versus what is fact, and deliver the news that many people want to hear without all of the arguing. And, like with Electionland, even those who do care about the debate, could have an outlet to see who is saying these things, or posting these things.

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