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@FrankJon regarding your word salad:

PepeTheFrog only referenced the publicly posted (now deleted, but archived) Instagram pictures. That's it. Everything else you mentioned is a very cool story, bro, and you should tell it again. Your questions are not interesting or new. Your opinion about alternative media is noted. The points you've made and the questions you've asked are boring. 

PepeTheFrog is certainly distrustful of of the mainstream or establishment media, and is skeptical about alternative media as well. 

To sum up, PepeTheFrog would like you to understand that no person, no source, no organization, no corporation, no party, no profession, no philosophy has a monopoly on the truth. Where you rank your sources, regarding reliability, is your own opinion but it doesn't impress anyone.

It's interesting that the mere reference to one aspect of a story that was not covered in the #FakeNews is enough to troll you and others. PepeTheFrog has enjoyed this exchange, immensely. Try lifting more weights, it will help your critical thinking skills. Also, lay off soy products of all kinds, except fermented. They will decrease your critical thinking skills.

 

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To add to what Vern has written, earlier in my career I was a regulator with the Federal Communications Commission.  Based on my experience there, there were many times when the major networks engaged in outright deception in their "news" broadcasts.  For example, some of their news stories were actually scripted with actors playing parts in the stories, they would take  pictures of something and represent it as something completely different and edit interviews to combine answers to more than one question into the answer to a single question.  Based on my experiences at the FCC and personal experience as well, I have moved from the skeptical to the cynical in regard to broadcast news.

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1 hour ago, Vern Edwards said:

So the "breaking news" report from our "newspaper of record" was based on something told to somebody at the Times by four unnamed persons who did not witness the event but were told about it by one or more other unnamed persons. Right. What are we supposed to do with that? That report is aimed directly at people who already distrust or hate Trump and are inclined to believe any bad thing said about him. It is designed to incite them. Of course, the Times will say that it verified the story by getting confirmation from at least two unnamed sources. Trust us.

So what are you suggesting? That this story is likely wrong, that it is completely fabricated, or that readers should approach any story with unnamed sources with a critical eye?

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The second rule in the Terms of Use is:

Quote

6. No political content including favoring an elected official, party, or political organization.

I noticed that we are naming politicians.  However, I still believe the discussion is about the reliability of our news media.  Let's keep it that way!  All "news" oulets are biased to some degree.  We all are in some way.  Whenever I read something from a web site, I look for the "about" tab and see what they say they are about.  At times, they will give names of officers of their organization that you can check.  I do that to judge the direction of their bias.  If you must read the news, try to read an assortment of news from other countries.  My list of news outlets include news from Siberia, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, China, India, France, Greece, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and of course, the United States of America.  Some countries that do not use English as their first language will let you convert into English.

I need to add a news site from Russia and Canada but I remember reading the Montreal Globe and Mail.  Maybe I'll add a Toronto outlet to offset Montreal.

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43 minutes ago, FrankJon said:

So what are you suggesting? That this story is likely wrong, that it is completely fabricated, or that readers should approach any story with unnamed sources with a critical eye?

Let's be critical thinkers. I don't know whether the story is likely wrong. By fabricated, I presume that you mean a lie. Since I don't know whether the story is wrong, I don't know whether the story is a lie (fabricated). Do I think that readers should approach any story with unnamed sources with a critical eye? I would have thought that my answer would be obvious from what else I have said this morning.

All that I know is that the NYTimes has reported that it has been told something by someone and that they called that "breaking news." What do I do with that news? How should I react to that news? With a shrug. What should I do with that news? Nothing.

See this about the NYTimes' reporting on the invasion of Iraq, by the NYTimes. http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/26/world/from-the-editors-the-times-and-iraq.html

Note how they set the stage for their statement of the problem and how they describe the problem as one of "coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been." Perhaps we should call that "sweetening the well."

 

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20 hours ago, Vern Edwards said:

Let's be critical thinkers. I don't know whether the story is likely wrong. By fabricated, I presume that you mean a lie. Since I don't know whether the story is wrong, I don't know whether the story is a lie (fabricated). Do I think that readers should approach any story with unnamed sources with a critical eye? I would have thought that my answer would be obvious from what else I have said this morning.

All that I know is that the NYTimes has reported that it has been told something by someone and that they called that "breaking news." What do I do with that news? How should I react to that news? With a shrug. What should I do with that news? Nothing.

I suppose that's one way of looking at news that relies on anonymous sources, but imagine if there was a collective shrug in response to the reports on Watergate, the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal, or the U.S.'s use of secret detention facilities in Europe (just to name a few impactful reports that relied on anonymous sources).  I fully understand that reporting, particularly when it relies on anonymous sources, is not infallible and should be subject to a healthy dose of skepticism, but there are better reactions to those reports than outright distrust from some or, as you stated, a shrug and no action (I, for one, doubt that's actually your reaction...my guess is you try to see if other outlets are reporting or corroborating the news).  For anyone who may merely distrust or discount news that relies on anonymous sources, consider the following two articles as a primer (or any other guide to anonymous sources) to help you make an informed assessment of the information instead:

Quote

I think most of us here would agree that, more broadly speaking, the reporting and exchange of information is imperfect (anyone who can recall playing the telephone game in elementary school understands that from a young age).  While the following provides an impactful of example where the media got it wrong...

20 hours ago, Vern Edwards said:

See this about the NYTimes' reporting on the invasion of Iraq, by the NYTimes. http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/26/world/from-the-editors-the-times-and-iraq.html

Note how they set the stage for their statement of the problem and how they describe the problem as one of "coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been." Perhaps we should call that "sweetening the well."

...regardless of whether this is "sweetening the well" or something else, I do think it begins to highlight a key difference between the traditional media and alternative/independent media: that a degree of transparency and accountability can and does exist.  Traditional media promulgates standards and ethics for their reporting (http://asne.org/resources-ethics) and while that does not make their reporting above reproach, it does establish a set of expectations for accountability that warrants retrospectives like the one Vern posted here or suspensions and firings of individuals who violate those standards and misreport.  Whether the degree of accountability regarding an incident is adequate is debatable - I'll stipulate that sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't - but its prevalence in one space compared to the other is not.  Let's consider conversely, for example, whether or not the anonymous individual(s) who "reported" "pizzagate" will ever publish a retrospective of any kind?  I seriously doubt it, particularly because there is no standard for accountability nor anyone to hold accountable.  For those distrustful of traditional media in favor of alterative/independent media, it's puzzling when one considers how many "reporters" in the alternative/independent media operate under a shroud of complete anonymity.  If they "publish" a false "report," reestablishing one's credibility is as simple as creating a new handle (or user name) for filing the next "report" (or, in some cases, conveniently "pivoting" to the "I'm a performance artist merely playing a character" defense).  Writers for traditional media have to, at a minimum, put their name/credibility on the line (and their outlet's as well) based on a set of publicly available expectations.  So when one does misreport (either accidently or purposefully), a reader can approach any future reports with whatever skepticism may be warranted based on previous events.  It's no wonder Stephen Glass will never get rehired at a traditional media company as a journalist due to public knowledge of his gross fabrications (though I suppose he could easily start reporting again via 4chan...).

In short, I'll take the devils I know over the devils I don't/can't know any day of the week (and twice on Sundays because of the crossword puzzles :))

P.S. While I quote Vern's comments in the later half of this post, the comments that followed are not intended to imply that Vern defended or promoted alternative/independent media - I'm merely using them as a springboard to juxtapose the level of accountability between traditional media and alternative/independent media.

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Matthew - Good points. You've reflected a lot of my thinking on this topic in response to yesterday's posts from Vern. I would sum it up by stating that if we want to remain informed, we can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. I'm much more apt to put my faith in a highly visible source that's subject to wide public scrutiny and ethical standards, and that cares deeply about its reputation as a seeker of truth, than I am in the "alternative." I can do this while maintaining a critical eye for stories that are of dubious credibility or value.

I also second the use of FiveThirtyEight to help calibrate one's thinking on breaking news.

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Matthew,

Solid points. I think it' worth mentioning that anonymous sources are not the issue, per se. Media can protect the identity of a source that has first-hand knowledge of a thing.

What I gathered is that something told to somebody by unnamed persons who did not witness the event but were told about it by one or more other unnamed persons who may or may not have witnessed it is the problem. This second type is more along the lines of playing telephone.

Essentially, the more unnamed sources and hearsay you have the less desirable and reliable the info.

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@Matthew Fleharty

I think you should reread my comments.  I was asked by FrankJon:

On 1/29/2018 at 9:35 AM, FrankJon said:

So what are you suggesting? That this story is likely wrong, that it is completely fabricated, or that readers should approach any story with unnamed sources with a critical eye?

My response was:

On 1/29/2018 at 10:19 AM, Vern Edwards said:

Let's be critical thinkers. I don't know whether the story is likely wrong. By fabricated, I presume that you mean a lie. Since I don't know whether the story is wrong, I don't know whether the story is a lie (fabricated). Do I think that readers should approach any story with unnamed sources with a critical eye? I would have thought that my answer would be obvious from what else I have said this morning.

All that I know is that the NYTimes has reported that it has been told something by someone and that they called that "breaking news." What do I do with that news? How should I react to that news? With a shrug. What should I do with that news? Nothing.

There is a difference between (1) taking note of a story the truth of which you admit you do not know and (2) being outraged by it and taking to the barricades or (3) utterly rejecting it.

My comments were not about what kinds of sources are more credible. What did you mean when you said:

7 hours ago, Matthew Fleharty said:

I'll take the devils I know over the devils I don't/can't know any day of the week....

What does "take" mean? Believe? "Take" on faith? Why? Why believe anyone who reports what you cannot know to be true on the basis of the evidence provided? What does "know" mean? Do you know the reporter? Her editors? Have you met her? Laid eyes on her? In what way do you "know" that devil?

Why believe, learn you were deceived, then feel better when you're told the author of the false report was disciplined? Why not, upon reading a "report," just shrug and say, "Interesting, but what do I know," then wait to see what develops?

Big media journalism is a business.

Want to learn something about journalism? Read the greatest book about journalism ever written: The Journalist and the Murderer by Janet Malcolm.

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6 hours ago, FrankJon said:

You've reflected a lot of my thinking on this topic in response to yesterday's posts from Vern. I would sum it up by stating that if we want to remain informed, we can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

What if a person's life or a country's well-being depended on it? Do you still think you shouldn't let the perfect be the enemy of the good? And you're another false dichotomizer. Why make the choice between perfect reporting and merely "good" reporting (whatever that is)? Why not silence instead of possibly false reporting?

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2 hours ago, Jamaal Valentine said:

Solid points. I think it' worth mentioning that anonymous sources are not the issue, per se. Media can protect the identity of a source that has first-hand knowledge of a thing.

In the NYT case I mentioned, the sources were four anonymous persons repeating second hand (maybe) knowledge. The Times wasn't reporting knowledge. It was reporting gossip. It reported gossip about something of no consequence in order to rally the "resistance."

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So according to the article there was a credibility problem associated with news during the following decades:  1880-1890, 1920-1930, 1960-1970, and 2000-2010.  That means that a credibility problem was perceived as often as a non-credibility problem.  8 decades where credibility of the media was in question, and 6 (1900-1910, 1940-1950, 1980-1990) where perceived credibility of the media was less of a problem.  Maybe RAND is asking the wrong question.  Maybe they should be looking at what factors lead to a perceived increase of credibility with journalistic institutions.  So media/journalism as it relates to politics and politicians (and some argue political parties themselves) has been perceived as less worthy of trust more often than worthy of the pedestal that some place on the profession.  

When speaking at an event I posed the same question to a group of supply-chain professionals as Vern was stating earlier, which is don't pay any attention to the noise created by the media as it is meant to sell papers/secure viewers...not to inform or educate.  All the world is a stage, and all the men and women are merely players (As You Like It, Act II Scene VII), so even Shakespeare had an appreciation for (if not tendency towards) a level of cynicism.  

So the question that some of the respondents to this posed is "where do I then get my information if no source can be trusted"?  That takes time and attention, reading often, thinking often, and tossing aside that which is irrelevant but is made to look relevant as an appeal to either attract or retain readership/viewership.  If one views the news in a detached fashion, you find yourself reading and watching less.  Because much of what passes for news is either nonsense or does not impact me directly, I toss it aside and give it little to no thought.  Making mountains out of molehills is a wonderful way to attract attention, but it also desensitizes one from when you are looking at a mountain.  

Maybe it is better to be uninformed rather than misinformed.  Just some thoughts.

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23 hours ago, Matthew Fleharty said:

Traditional media promulgates standards and ethics for their reporting (http://asne.org/resources-ethics) and while that does not make their reporting above reproach, it does establish a set of expectations for accountability that warrants retrospectives like the one Vern posted here or suspensions and firings of individuals who violate those standards and misreport.  Whether the degree of accountability regarding an incident is adequate is debatable

Your reaction to reading this paragraph, PepeTheFrog believes, is a reliable predictor of your vote or feelings in the 2016 election.

16 hours ago, Vern Edwards said:

Why not silence instead of possibly false reporting?

Agree

15 hours ago, jonmjohnson said:

Maybe it is better to be uninformed rather than misinformed.

Agree

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So based on what has transpired during the course of this thread, what is to be made of the current situation related to the SOTU speech given last night, WaPo's choice of headlines, and the state of our media?  What are the facts associated with the speech?  Was the speech factually represented, or is this an article on the"reaction" to the speech?  How did WaPo originally present that from a headline perspective?  What was the reaction to the headline?  How did the paper respond to the reaction?  Why?  What can we conclude from this?

 

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Just for the record, "Fake News" was coined to describe Stephen Colbert's and Jon Stewart's shtick back in 2011:

The Stewart / Colbert Effect: Essays on the Real Impacts of Fake News 
"For millions of people, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report have become a favorite source of news, information, and political commentary."

https://www.amazon.com/Stewart-Colbert-Effect-Essays-Impacts/dp/0786458860

Irony abounds.

(My personal favorite bit of nonsense regarding today's state of journalism is that "Completely screwing up the most basic aspects of your job  is a non-issue as long as you  correct it when someone else points it out".   Apparently the "professional standards" of today's journalists are below those of carnival ride operators).

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21 hours ago, Vern Edwards said:

What does "take" mean? Believe? "Take" on faith? Why? Why believe anyone who reports what you cannot know to be true on the basis of the evidence provided? What does "know" mean? Do you know the reporter? Her editors? Have you met her? Laid eyes on her? In what way do you "know" that devil?

As always, I appreciate the reading recommendation.  In response to your line of questioning, I thought (wrongly) that the preceding paragraph would provide enough context for the use of an adage.  What I meant by "take" was not outright trust or belief, but rather where I decide to use my finite time to read the news (i.e. I'll read news reported by NYTimes, WSJ, Washington Post over content on 4chan, Infowars, etc.).

An aside: this is may be one of those cases where the use of the "her" pronoun does gender-inclusive writing a disservice. ;)

21 hours ago, Vern Edwards said:

Why believe, learn you were deceived, then feel better when you're told the author of the false report was disciplined? Why not, upon reading a "report," just shrug and say, "Interesting, but what do I know," then wait to see what develops?

Big media journalism is a business.

I don't think this is a fair characterization of my comments - nowhere in this thread have I stated to believe first and verify later or that I or anyone should accept deception because we'll all feel better when an author of a false report is disciplined.  If you think I'm the type of person who jumps to conclusions or makes hasty generalizations, well I'm at least curious what gave you that impression.  Generally, I think I'm a thoughtful consumer of information who reads multiple sources to see if they separately corroborate the information (i.e. don't just report the other outlet's information) before formulating a position or reaching a conclusion (though I am human so I'll admit that sometimes my relative youth or biases do get the best of me).  I understand, and don't dispute, that traditional news outlets are businesses which carry a whole host of incentivizes that may cause them to sensationalize the news or move on to the next news cycle all too quickly (or too slowly in the case of CNN's MH370 coverage); however, alternative/independent news sources are surely not exempt from their own set of incentives (monetary or otherwise) and I think they present a whole new host of problems relating to transparency and credibility (which I'm not going to rehash).

As for the wait and see approach you propose, while generally prudent, I think it can be a bystander luxury.  By that I mean, the very nature of "see what develops" requires further fact finding.  In some cases, information, the discovery of further facts, and/or a decision is time sensitive and does not permit waiting to see.  In other cases, if that further fact finding requires more or stronger resources (e.g. a subpoena) waiting to see may not compel further fact finding because everyone will scurry off to the next news cycle or distraction and the previous topic will be forgotten.  So sure, when one can, gather more information or wait for it to develop; however, a time may come where one is asked to use incomplete or competing information to make a decision and take a position.  Then what?

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4 hours ago, Matthew Fleharty said:

An aside: this is may be one of those cases where the use of the "her" pronoun does gender-inclusive writing a disservice.

One of the NYT reporters was Maggie Haberman, thus the "her". The other was Michael S. Schmidt.

Note the interesting structure of the lead of their story:

Quote

WASHINGTON — President Trump ordered the firing last June of Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation, according to four people [who apparently don't have names] told [second hand "information," or third, or fourth, who knows?)] of the matter [by who?], but ultimately backed down after the White House counsel threatened to resign rather than carry out the directive.

The West Wing confrontation marks the first time Mr. Trump is known [?] to have tried to fire the special counsel. Mr. Mueller learned about the episode in recent months [according to who?].

Emphasis added.

Ya gotta love it.

4 hours ago, Matthew Fleharty said:

So sure, when one can, gather more information or wait for it to develop; however, a time may come where one is asked to use incomplete or competing information to make a decision and take a position.  Then what?

What does that have to do with what we have been discussing? I have no idea what then. To the best of my knowledge there is no algorithm that works in every such case. Punt.

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5 hours ago, jonmjohnson said:

So based on what has transpired during the course of this thread, what is to be made of the current situation related to the SOTU speech given last night, WaPo's choice of headlines, and the state of our media?  What are the facts associated with the speech?  Was the speech factually represented, or is this an article on the"reaction" to the speech?  How did WaPo originally present that from a headline perspective?  What was the reaction to the headline?  How did the paper respond to the reaction?  Why?  What can we conclude from this?

Jon: To the media the story is the speaker, not the speech. The guy could have said nothing more than "The sky is blue somewhere on Earth" and the song would have remained the same. The assertion would have been discredited on the grounds of who was doing the talking. It's going to be that way for at least the next three years. I stopped paying attention to speeches a long time ago.

 

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I wanted to share this article I came across on one of my favorite websites (er, besides Wifcon), Farnam Street: Why You Should Stop Reading News.

It goes to a question that I've grappled with a lot throughout the years and most recently during the Truth Decay discussion: Is there value to being "well-informed" vis-a-vis current events? Is there a cost?

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2 hours ago, FrankJon said:

Is there value to being "well-informed" vis-a-vis current events?

My all-time favorite quote is from Alexander Solzhenitsyn's novel, Cancer Ward:

"You can't know everything in the world. Whatever happens you'll die a fool."

I find that reassuring.

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On 2/5/2018 at 9:14 AM, Vern Edwards said:

"You can't know everything in the world. Whatever happens you'll die a fool."

“Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body.” 
 

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Anyone who tells me that they trust the reporting of newspapers, or a particular newspaper, or journalists, or a particular journalist that they do not know personally, is, in my opinion, a fool. They may not, in fact, be a fool, but they are a fool in my view.

Just this morning I read an article by one Ben Terris in the Style section (not the opinion section) of the Washington Post about the HUD secretary--"Ben Carson, or the tale of the disappearing Cabinet secretary." Terris is a 30-something "journalist." Among other things, he wrote:

Quote

In his new role [as HUD secretary], Carson still sees himself as a warrior against impending doom, but he’s battling contradictions on the side. He wants to be a good steward for an agency he calls the “philanthropic” arm of the government, even if he doesn’t think of the government as a philanthropy. He wants to clean up the swamp but finds himself swimming in ethically murky water.

Carson is a man torn by differing impulses. And nearly a year into the job, it’s unclear whether he’s fighting the chaos or helping create it.

Now how does Terris know how the HUD secretary sees himself or what he wants to be? How did he arrive at the conclusion that the HUD secretary is "torn by differing impulses?" I checked Terris's bio, and it does not say that he is a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist, or even that he has a degree in one of those disciplines. Why didn't he just report the facts of Carson's tenure and let readers make up their minds? The answer? Because he wasn't reporting anything. He was pitching a point of view by means of selected quotes and personal opinions. His piece is a classic illustration of the rhetorical device of poisoning the well. Everything he wrote about Carson, including the assertions that I quoted above, preceded his reporting of various incidents and unofficial statements of the HUD secretary's tenure and his own paraphrases of things that the HUD secretary is supposed to have said. He is setting the reader up: The HUD secretary is a nut.

The article is what Taleb would call a "one-sided account." In short, it's a hatchet job.

I am not a fan of the HUD secretary, but what was the Post's point in publishing Terris' article? Why print that kind of thing under the banner "Democracy Dies in Darkness"? What kind of light does the article shed on anything? We don't know the HUD secretary after reading that article. We know only what Terris wants us to think.

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