Opinion vs. News

Photographers waiting in the rotunda of the Russell Building in the United States Capitol, Washington, DC. Photo by ConsumerMojo.com

What’s the difference between an opinion piece and a news story? 

Daily News Opinion pageAn opinion piece gives you information from the point of view of the writer, or presenter. It may include facts, and reporting, but it differs from a news story in that it lays out an individual’s ideas and often their biases.  Opinion is, essentially, someone’s argument for a certain point of view about a specific topic.

When we read newspaper editorial pages, we see two types of opinion. We get the collective opinion of the editors and we also read, on the OpEd page — the page opposite the editorials — what individual columnists have to say in their byline pieces.

Charles Blow opinion piece


Adams & Hochul on gunsA news story reports the facts without the opinion of the reporter, writer, producer or presenter. It can contain attributed or quoted opinions of people interviewed. So a news story can contain opinion and tell a compelling story. But it should not include the opinion of the newsgatherer or the news organization.

A Pew Research Center poll, in 2018, found that younger people were better than older people at figuring out what’s factual and what’s opinion.

Pew said, “About a third of 18- to 49-year-olds (32 percent) correctly identified all five of the factual statements as factual, compared with two-in-ten among those ages 50 and older. A similar pattern emerges for the opinion statements. Among 18- to 49-year-olds, 44 percent correctly identified all five opinion statements as opinions, compared with 26 percent among those ages 50 and older.”

Pew Research Poll Opinion vs. Fact.png

You can take the quiz and see how you do.


You can take the quiz and see how you do.


The First Amendment

Protestors in Washington Square Park, Photo by ConsumerMojo.com

The Bill of RightsThe First Amendment to the United States Constitution, part of the Bill of Rights, guarantees freedom of religion and speech, the press and the right of people to gather to protest and complain to the government.

In its own words:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to freely assemble, and petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

After the founders of the United States wrote the U.S. Constitution, some of them realized they had left out critical guarantees to safeguard the type of nation, free of tyranny, they and others wanted.

The newly minted senators and congressmen debated about whether “checks and balances” would protect the rights of the people, or whether they needed to write amendments to the Constitution.

Freedom of the press was one of the priorities for Thomas Jefferson.

Thomas Jefferson

Jefferson wrote a letter to another lawmaker saying,

“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

Some wanted to rewrite the Constitution but worried that people would think that they intended to tear up what they wanted to protect. They turned to U.S. Virginia Representative James Madison, a good thinker and a good writer.

James Madison

Madison argued that, “A popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

In 1789 Madison drafted amendments and presented them to the House of Representatives. The House approved 17 amendments. The Senate approved 12 and the states ratified 10 in December, 1791 as the Bill of Rights.

Thomas Jefferson became the third President of the United States and James Madison became the fourth.

COVID Vaccine Misinformation on Facebook and Social Media

Misinformation – Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Misinformation

  1. false or inaccurate information, especially that which is deliberately intended to deceive.”nuclear matters are often entangled in a web of secrecy and misinformation”synonyms:disinformation, false information, misleading information, deception; lie, fib, false rumor, trumped-up story, fake news, alternative fact, gossip, red herring, false trail.
  2. Misinformation is false or inaccurate information. Examples of misinformation include false rumors, insults and pranks, while examples of more deliberate disinformation include malicious content such as hoaxes, spearphishing and propaganda.‎

The Center for Counter Digital (CCD) hate compiled a list of 12 people who spread misinformation on social media. All of them seem like reliable experts and the CCD says they are responsible for spreading almost two-thirds of the anti-vaxxer disinformation on social media. Here are a couple of examples.

Screen shot of article Rizza Islam Vaccinate Conspiracy theorist
Anti-Vaxer Joseph Mercola

Read More

BuzzFeed also tracked so-called experts who spread COVID and vaccine disinformation.

Buzz Feed Fake Experts

Read More

Before COVID, Before the Capitol Insurrection, There was the Mueller Report.

The Mueller Report issued by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team documented Russian interference in the U.S. 2016 presidential election.

In February 2018, before the report was issued, the Special Counsel indicted 13 foreign nationals and a Russian “troll farm” connected to the Internet Research Agency or IRA. Facebook disclosed in the fall of 2017 that it sold $100,000 worth of ads to the Internet Research Agency.

How did they use the ads on Facebook and on other social media platforms?

This is from the Mueller Report:


“Dozens of IRA employees were responsible for operating accounts and personas on
different U.S. social media platforms. The IRA referred to employees assigned to operate the social media accounts as “specialists.”42 Starting as early as 2014, the IRA U.S. operations included social media specialists focusing on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.

The IRA later added specialists who operated on Tumblr and Instagram accounts.44
Initially, the IRA created social media accounts that pretended to be the personal accounts of U.S. persons.

By early 2015, the IRA began to create larger social media groups or public
social media pages that claimed (falsely) to be affiliated with U.S. political and grassroots organizations. In certain cases, the IRA created accounts that mimicked real U.S. organizations.

For example, one IRA-controlled Twitter account, @TEN_ GOP, purported to be connected to the Tennessee Republican Party.

More commonly, the IRA created accounts in the names of
fictitious U.S. organizations and grassroots groups and used these accounts to pose as antiimmigration groups, Tea Party activists, Black Lives Matter protestors, and other U.S. social and
political activists.

Groups (with names such as “Being Patriotic,” “Stop All Immigrants,” “Secured Borders,” and
“Tea Party News”), purported Black social justice groups (“Black Matters,” “Blacktivist,” and
“Don’t Shoot Us”), LGBTQ groups (“LGBT United”), and religious groups (“United Muslims of
Throughout 2016, IRA accounts published an increasing number of materials supporting the Trump Campaign and opposing the Clinton Campaign. For example, on May 31, 2016, the operational account “Matt Skiber” began to privately message dozens of pro-Trump Facebook groups asking them to help plan a “pro-Trump rally near Trump Tower.”55
To reach larger U.S. audiences, the IRA purchased advertisements from Facebook that
promoted the IRA groups on the newsfeeds of U.S. audience members. According to Facebook, the IRA purchased over 3,500 advertisements, and the expenditures totaled approximately $100,000.56.

During the U.S. presidential campaign, many IRA-purchased advertisements explicitly
supported or opposed a presidential candidate or promoted U.S. rallies organized by the IRA ( discussed below). As early as March 2016, the IRA purchased advertisements that overtly opposed the Clinton Campaign. For example, on March 18, 2016, the IRA purchased an advertisement depicting candidate Clinton and a caption that read in part, “If one day God lets this liar enter the White House as a president – that day would be a real national tragedy.”57
Similarly, on April 6, 2016, the IRA purchased advertisements for its account “Black Matters” calling for a “flashmob” of U.S. persons to “take a photo with #HillaryClintonForPrison2016 or nohillary2016.”

Collectively, the IRA’s social media accounts reached tens of millions of U.S. persons.
Individual IRA social media accounts attracted hundreds of thousands of followers. For example, at the time they were deactivated by Facebook in mid-2017, the IRA’s “United Muslims of America”

Facebook group had over 300,000 followers, the “Don’t Shoot Us” Facebook group had over 250,000 followers, the “Being Patriotic” Facebook group had over 200,000 followers, and the “Secured Borders” Facebook group had over 130,000 followers.61 According to Facebook, in total the IRA-controlled accounts made over 80,000 posts before their deactivation in August 2017, and these posts reached at least 29 million U.S persons and “may have reached an estimated 126
million people.”62
pg. 26


New Faces For News Industry

Screen shot of Lester Holt, NBC Nightly News

From Bloomberg News

Struggling News Industry Steps Up Recruitment of Diverse Leaders

By Gerry SmithAugust 23, 2021, 10:00 AM EDT

  •  Houston and Dallas become latest papers to make historic moves
  •  Editors of color face challenges beyond tight newsroom budget

With much of corporate America targeting greater diversity in its management ranks, news companies are taking steps to close the gap, offering a glimpse at what more representative leadership might bring in an industry that has lagged behind.

The Associated Press appointed the first woman and person of color to helm the news agency this month. In Texas, both the Dallas Morning Newsand the Houston Chronicle named their first Black top editors in July. And in TV, Black women now run the news divisions of ABC News and MSNBC for the first time.

relates to Struggling News Industry Steps Up Recruitment of Diverse Leaders
Daisy Veerasingham was appointed executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Associated Press.Photographer: Chuck Zoeller/AP Photo

These leaders are taking over to improve coverage and broaden their audiences at a time of crisis in the industry, with about 300 newspapers closing over the past three years and revenue expected to continue to decline. On top of those challenges, some of these editors say they face other obstacles their predecessors didn’t, like a perception they were promoted not because they were qualified, but because of the color of their skin. 

Their staffs remain over-represented by White journalists. More than three-fourths (77%) of newsroom employees working at newspapers, broadcasters or digital publishers are White, compared with 65% of U.S. workers overall, according to a 2018 analysis by Pew Research Center.

The newspaper industry’s financial troubles have led to years of layoffs and hiring freezes. That’s long served as an excuse for the failure to hire more Black and Hispanic journalists, despite the benefits they bring in helping outlets better reflect their communities, according to Richard Prince, who runs a website that tracks diversity trends in the news business.

“But where there’s a will there’s a way,” he said.

Of the 20 largest U.S. daily newspapers, about half are now led by a woman or a person of color or both, according to Nieman Lab. In 2014, three of the 25 largest newspapers had women as the top editor and 15% of American newspapers had a person of color in one of the top three newsroom roles.

Path to Growth

For newspapers, more diversity could be good for business. Nearly half of Black adults say they follow local news “very closely,” a higher percentage than White or Hispanics, Pew found. Hiring more journalists of color helps newsrooms get away from homogeneous perspectives that can limit their audiences, potentially leading to subscriber growth, the thinking goes. 

Monica RichardsonSource: McClatchy/PRNewswire

Black journalists understand the concerns of the Black community, said Monica Richardson, who was named executive editor of the Miami Herald in December.

“I know what it’s like to drive by a police officer and have that sense of fear on the highway,” she said.

Richardson has been holding “listening sessions” in the Black community around Miami in an attempt to mend fences. Her takeaway: “We have work to do.”

“There was trust that had been broken, either through a story or a lack of presence in covering communities,” Richardson said. “People felt like their stories weren’t being told.”

The push in the news industry comes amid an acknowledgment of the lack of diversity throughout business world. There are about 30 female chief executives officers and 5 Black CEOs running companies in the S&P 500. 

Many news organizations have pledged to hire more journalists of color. Bloomberg News has initiatives to improve representation in terms of gender, ethnicity and race at every level of the newsroom. Gannett Co.released data last year showing its staffs were often more White than the communities they cover and pledged to make its workforce as diverse as the country by 2025.

“Across the nation, newsrooms continue to struggle with a lack of diversity –– especially in leadership ranks, including some of our own,” said Maribel Perez Wadsworth, president of news at Gannett Media. “We must do better.”

‘Not Good Enough’

The Los Angeles Times published an editorial last year apologizing for its past failures to cover race and vowing to hire more minorities. At the time, the paper said 38% of its journalists were people of color, while Los Angeles County was 48% Latino. “We know that is not nearly good enough,” it said. In May the newspaper hiredKevin Merida, who is Black, to lead the newsroom.

The ability for such leaders to direct coverage is substantial. Dean Baquet, an African American, has run the New York Times newsroom for seven years. Last year Times journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones won a Pulitzer Prize for the 1619 Project, a series of articles looking at the history of the U.S. through the prism of slavery.

Some observers have taken a pessimistic view of the recent promotions, noting that women and people of color have been given leadership roles only after businesses start to decline. 

Black editors say they can bring more racial diversity to their staffs and their audiences. They plan to recruit more journalists of color and make them feel comfortable at the office.

“It’s not only who you hire, but more importantly, what are you doing to ensure your news environments are inclusive?” said Katrice Hardy, who was named executive editor of the Dallas Morning News last month. “Because you could hire me, but the culture and environment will mean that I don’t want to stay.”

Backhanded Compliments

In TV news, Black women in the top jobs often take a special interest in mentoring other Black women journalists because “they don’t want to be the last ones in those positions,” said Ava Thompson Greenwell, a journalism professor at Northwestern University. Only 4% of TV news directors are Black, according to a survey of TV stations from RTDNA/Newhouse School at Syracuse University.

But Black women are also frequently the target of micro-aggressions, such as subordinates who question their competence, refuse to take their orders or offer them backhanded compliments, said Greenwell, who interviewed about 40 Black female journalists for her book “Ladies Leading: The Black Women Who Control Television News.”

“The good news is that they are there,” Greenwell said. “The bad news is they aren’t always afforded the deference they deserve.”

At the Dallas Morning News, which named Hardy as its first woman and Black journalist to be executive editor, the newsroom is 64% White while the community the paper covers is 49% White, according to data provided by the paper. Its newsroom leadership is 9% Hispanic, compared with a coverage area that is 26% Hispanic.

“We got these positions because we worked our butts off and we’re really good journalists,” said Hardy, who helped lead the Indianapolis Star to a Pulitzer Prize this year.

“We didn’t get them because we’re Black and Brown,” she said, “although finally the news industry has seen the need to promote people like us.”

In her previous newsroom jobs, Hardy said she was able to call up members of minority communities and “have conversations with folks who frankly had long stopped wanting to deal with us.” She sees such outreach as critical to the industry’s survival.

“If we do not grow a diverse audience of readers,” she said, “we’re going to die.”

Maria Reeve, the new executive editor of the Houston Chronicle, said she would like her promotion to inspire Black journalists.

“I hope younger reporters see what’s happening and can see that there is a path,” Reeve said.

— With assistance by Jeff Green

Source and The Investigative Reporter

From the Intercept

The Journalist and the Whistleblower

As the government attacks press freedom, reporters must consider their responsibility to sources — and each other.James Risen
April 13 2021, 10:38 a.m.DONATE29


The Federal Bureau of Investigations headquarters is seen in Washington, D.C., on October 24, 2019.

Photo: Elise Swain/The Intercept

WHEN I BECAME a reporter, I was surprised to discover a trait that I had never before recognized in myself.

People liked to talk to me. They liked to talk to me so much that they often revealed things they weren’t supposed to share. They did so voluntarily.

I noticed this when I was 23 and working in my first job as a reporter at the Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne, Indiana. One day, I was meeting with the director of the Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce, the most pro-business man in town, when he suddenly told me to get into his car and drove me to a factory with no signs or exterior identification. He explained that the building I was looking at was the secret plant of a company trying to hide from regulators and labor unions. A few months later, I was standing in a large crowd of reporters covering a strike at International Harvester, then Fort Wayne’s largest employer, when someone who worked there walked up to me and whispered that I should follow him. When we got to his car, he opened the trunk to reveal boxloads of secret International Harvester documents — and told me to take all of them.Join Our NewsletterOriginal reporting. Fearless journalism. Delivered to you.I’m in

Things like that have continued to happen throughout my career, and I’ve been surprised every time. While I was working on a book about the anti-abortion movement, Joseph Scheidler, one of the nation’s leading anti-abortion extremists, gave me the keys to his Chicago office and told my co-author and me that we could spend an entire weekend going through his personal files by ourselves, with no one else around. We found lots of documents that made him look bad, and I never understood why he let us do it.

I’ve always thought of this strange capability as a trait rather than a skill, because I don’t recall ever doing anything to make it happen. In most fields, such a trait would be modestly helpful. But for an investigative reporter, it is all-important.

Yet for today’s investigative reporters, particularly in the field of national security reporting, being good at getting people to talk can seem like a curse.

In the 21st century, hatred of the press has become bipartisan, and government leak investigations under both Republican and Democratic administrations have altered the landscape for national security reporting. Starting with the George W. Bush administration in the years after 9/11, the federal government has brought criminal charges in nearly 20 cases related to leaks to the press, virtually all of them involving national security matters. In almost all of those cases, it is the sources who have faced criminal charges, not the reporters who published what the sources told them.The fate of modern investigative reporting is now on a collision course with high-tech government leak investigations.

As a result, the fate of modern investigative reporting is now on a collision course with high-tech government leak investigations. Being really good at getting people to tell you government secrets — the key to career success as a national security reporter — now brings great danger to a reporter’s sources.

The arrest and prosecution of a source can lead to a silent sense of guilt and shame. Silent because the reporter cannot publicly acknowledge the source for fear of confirming the government’s case; guilt and shame because the reporter’s news organization rarely does anything to help a source facing federal prosecution. At major newspapers and television networks, there is an unspoken gulf between the reporter, who has a personal relationship with the source, and top managers, who don’t.

The Department of Justice and the FBI consistently exploit this guilt and shame by pointing out, in official court documents in virtually every leak case, the supposed mistakes reporters have made that government agents claim somehow helped them identify the sources of information.

The truth is that the federal government doesn’t need a reporter to make a mistake in order to track down a whistleblower. The government has immense surveillance powers, and those powers are at their most robust when it comes to tracking someone with a security clearance and access to classified information.

Most people who go to work for the government, or even for a government contractor, have only a vague understanding of how much of their privacy and civil rights they are signing away when they get a security clearance. Once the government launches a leak investigation, there are few limits on its ability to track the digital footprint of a suspect working in the national security apparatus.

Most reporters think hard and work tirelessly to protect confidential sources and now widely use encrypted electronic communications. But government leak hunters have the National Security Agency on their side, and reporters don’t.Government leak hunters have the National Security Agency on their side, and reporters don’t.

Yet arresting and prosecuting a source isn’t enough for the Justice Department and the FBI; they also want to make the reporter look bad. That underscores the real goal of leak investigations: They are designed to have a chilling effect on the press, to stop reporters from investigating the government. Embarrass enough investigative reporters and maybe they will stop embarrassing the government.

To their disgrace, the rest of the media often plays along with this governmental shaming project. Rather than recognizing that a source is a whistleblower performing a public service, the press invariably buys into the FBI’s propaganda that the bureau’s agents are investigating a crime and tracking down a traitor.

Press coverage of leak investigations and prosecutions follows a depressingly predictable narrative arc. The whistleblower who is a source for a story is depicted as a criminal who has been cornered and arrested by the heroic FBI, while the investigative reporter who broke the story is described as an accessory to a crime. The press unquestioningly plays up any supposed evidence presented by the government that the reporter made mistakes that were somehow the reason for the whistleblower’s arrest and prosecution.

This professional censure, along with the constant anxiety of knowing that the government is using all its vast power to locate sources, has led many investigative reporters into a period of second-guessing and introspection. Should a reporter who has the natural gift of getting people to tell them secrets keep using that gift if it can put people in prison?

The argument to continue reporting is powerful. Almost everything we know about the conduct of our 20-year forever wars has been made public thanks to aggressive national security reporting. People forget that something as basic as the very existence of the armed Predator drone was classified until legendary journalist Sy Hersh reported that it was being used to kill people in Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, the government’s leak crackdown has made the counterargument — not to keep developing sources and uncovering secrets for fear of putting people at risk — compelling as well. For national security reporters today, being good at your job can make it hard to sleep at night.

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 14:  New York Times reporter James Risen participates in a news conference, where he and other journalists and journalism advocates talked about the Justice Department's pursuit of Risen's confidential sources, at the National Press Club August 14, 2014 in Washington, DC. Risen could face jail or punshing fines for not revealing his source of classified information for his 2006 book that detailed the CIA's efforts against Iran's nuclear program.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

James Risen participates in a news conference where press freedom advocates speak about the Justice Department’s pursuit of Risen’s confidential sources at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 14, 2014.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

I HAVE BEEN thinking a lot about this dilemma recently because of several new developments in the government’s war over leaks.

In January, in the closing days of Donald Trump’s presidency, there was a campaign to convince Trump to pardon WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. That campaign failed; hopeful Assange supporters seemed to ignore the fact that it was the Trump administration that had indicted Assange in the first place.

That was followed by a decision in February by the incoming Biden administration to appeal a ruling by a British court rejecting Assange’s extradition to the United States. For now, Assange remains imprisoned in Britain, but if the Biden administration follows through with his prosecution, it would once again underscore the bipartisan nature of the government’s crackdown on the press.RelatedThe Biden Administration’s Continued Push for Julian Assange’s Extradition Is Bad News for Journalism

The Assange case is particularly troubling because the charges focus on the interactions between Assange and Chelsea Manning, the source of the U.S. military and diplomatic documents that WikiLeaks published a decade ago. If successful, the Assange prosecution could lead the government to prosecute investigative journalists based on the means by which they seek to obtain information from their sources.

In March, meanwhile, Daniel Hale, a former intelligence analyst, pleaded guilty in federal court to disclosing classified information about U.S. drone warfare programs. Arrested in 2019, Hale has been hounded by the government because he helped reveal the truth about the vicious and secretive processes used by the United States to target and kill people around the world with drone strikes.

In addition, a new documentary film was recently released about Reality Winner, a whistleblower who was arrested after revealing classified information showing that Russian intelligence sought to hack into U.S. voting systems during the 2016 presidential election. Her disclosure showed that the U.S. intelligence community knew about the Russian hacking attempts but had not warned the American people or even state election officials. Its significance was detailed in a 2018 Senate report, which revealed that state election officials learned of the Russian hacking threat from press coverage, not the federal government. The Senate report was issued even as the Justice Department was prosecuting Winner for sharing the information.


Film still of Daniel Hale from the documentary “National Bird.”

Still: Torsten Lapp/Ten Forward Films


New Opportunities


Thursday, April 8th Graduation: What now? 

Every Summer a new class of graduates is thrust into the world – having to make the nerve-wracking transition from academic life to professional life. The global pandemic has added a new wrinkle to the job hunt. Our experts in talent acquisition along with some of our journalists will walk through the do’s and don’ts of the virtual job hunt. Our experts will focus on tips and tricks for how to successfully get what you need from others when networking and creating a “sticky” message. What are the key elements of a compelling personal narrative? How do you make your own story compelling and relevant to the opportunity at hand? How can you best position yourself when you have so little real-world experience? Register HERE.


The Dow Jones News Fund invites college students studying journalism or working for student media at community colleges and four-year universities to apply for free registration to attend journalism conventions this summer.


The Society of Professional Journalists is looking for students who want to strengthen their leadership skills with a cohort of SPJ peers. Do you know an SPJ student member who has a drive to succeed in journalism? Who would want to build their emotional intelligence to improve their teams and colleagues? Who would benefit from learning alongside SPJ coaches who can help fine tune their skills? Then encourage them to apply for the Student Leadership Institute, sponsored by the Scripps Howard Foundation. Deadline to apply is 5 p.m. EDT April 15.

More details:
Individuals who choose to step up, with a willingness to learn and grow as leaders, are the ideal candidates. No minimum time of membership is required, and acceptance as a program participant is contingent on current membership in SPJ.

Participants will be chosen by a committee of journalism educators and professional journalists. They will focus on your drive and passion to succeed in journalism.

Preference will be given to applicants who have at least one full year of student membership in SPJ to complete after the 2021 SLI dates. However, any student member in good standing as of the application deadline may apply.

Info: https://www.spj.org/sli.aspApplication: https://www.spj.org/sli.asp#apply

Feature Story

James Wagner
Altagracia Alvino prepared a stewed goat dish while her grandson, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., slept. CreditCreditTara Walton for The New York Times

Abuela, Chef, Boss: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s Grandmother Feeds the Majors

For about two decades, Altagracia Alvino has lived with and cooked for her baseball-playing offspring — as well as their teammates and opponents.

By James Wagner

August 25, 2019

Leer en español

TORONTO — The brown sugar bubbled in the pan. The marinated goat meat sizzled when added. Spoonfuls of olives and capers were heaped into the mixture. Then Altagracia Alvino, who can make this dish with her eyes closed, froze.

“Did I put spice in here?” she whispered to herself in Spanish.

Alvino, 66, was careful to make as little noise as possible because it was 7:22 a.m., and her husband and her 20-year-old grandson, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., one of baseball’s brightest young stars, were asleep in their rooms of the family’s Toronto apartment. The familiar scent of cooking meat was unavoidable, though. Read More

Easy to Make Mistakes, So Verify

The Parkland shooting shows us how easily you can make a mistake and report things that are untrue in the rush to get a story out quickly.

Two things stand out:

  1. The false report that Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old who killed 17 and wounded 14 others at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, was connected to a white supremacist group.
  2. There have been 18 school shootings since January 1st, 2018.

Let’s tackle the first false report.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an organization that follows hate groups, wrote on its blog the day after the shooting that Cruz was associated with a Jacksonville, Florida, white supremacist group, Republic of Florida (ROF). The ADL had previously been contacted by someone who described himself as the leader of the group.

The ADL told Politico it picked up the information on 4chan, a bulletin board where self-described ROF members claimed Cruz was one of them.  News organizations picked the story up and people on 4chan kept it going. One of the users described it as “prime trolling opportunity,” and the discussions involved fooling reporters and feeding them the story that Cruz was with ROF.

The same kinds of conversations between these trolls about the false connection showed up on Discord, a gamers’ app that attracts neo-Nazis, about a concerted effort to fool reporters.

Politico posted these exchanges from the bulletin boards:

“On the Discord chat, a user called Curbstomp suggested sharing generic photos of ROF and claiming they depicted Cruz.

“I have an idea . . . We can just take a pic of masked ROF members and claim one of them is Cruz,” Curbstomp wrote.

Members of the Discord chat swapped potential photos.

Others joined the chorus on 4chan, interspersing jokes with purported confirmations.

“I can confirm this guy was trying to enact a race war and got kicked out of ROF,” wrote another poster.”

Reporters from AP and ABC contacted the trolls and supposed members of the group and went with the story.

But shortly after the first report, on Thursday, February 15, 2018, the Broward County sheriff said it wasn’t true.

How do you verify a claim that someone is in a hate group?

The Southern Poverty Law Center monitors hate groups. Contact them and ask.

The FBI monitors hate crimes. Some local law enforcement agencies do too. Contact them and ask.

ProPublica, a non-profit news organization, began Documenting Hate, a project that collects data from journalists from more than 130 news organizations as well as independent journalists, local law enforcement, community groups and civil rights groups to try to get a clear picture of what is happening in America

The Anti-Defamation League has been a reliable source in the past.

The bottom line is that Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter are good sources for leads and ways to connect with people. But you have to be extremely careful, because we know that people in chat rooms, on social media, and trolls are determined to spread false information and use reporters to to do it.  Take your time. Report only what you know.



2. Mistaken numbers about school shootings.

PolitiFact traced the first error to surface to a tweet from ABC reporter Jeff Greenfield.

In the rest of the world, there have been 18 school shootings in the last twenty years. In the U.S., there have been 18 school shootings since January 1.

It picked up 130,000 likes on Twitter.

Greenfield apparently picked up the statistic from Everytown for Gun Safety, an advocacy group founded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The number of 18 does not mean that there were 18 incidents of someone going into a school and shooting students, as Cruz allegedly did.

Instead the number includes a man committing suicide in a school parking lot and a student unintentionally firing an instructor’s gun. You can see the full list here.

If we use careful language, we would not classify many as school shootings.

Checking Facts:

PolitiFact checks claims of politicians, reporters and others in the news.

FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center

Snopes.org was founded in 1994 to research urban legends. It has become a go-to source for checking out internet rumors.

Open Secrets.org, part of The Center for Responsive Politics, follows political contributions and money spent on lobbying. It followed where the National Rifle Association (NRA)  money went in the 2016 election.


Sunlight Foundation shines the light on government and government officials using public records, technology and information from civic groups and journalists,

See Through New York, a project of the Empire Center, shows you salaries of every public employee in New York State as well as pension information.


PSC-CUNY Protest For New Contract

PSC-CUNY teachers demonstrate for higher pay.

by, Michael C. Bohn, Sr.


December 4, 2017

They came armed with protest signs instead of red pens. Several hundred City University of New York (CUNY) professors came out to demand better pay and working conditions. They give the CUNY administration a failing grade for its unwillingness to support professors who teach more than 500,000 students.

The Professional Staff Congress or PSC/CUNY, the union representing more than 27,000 faculty and staff and the CUNY Research Foundation, rallied in front of the CUNY Graduate Center at Fifth Avenue at 34 Street on December 4, 2017. From there they marched 15 blocks south to Baruch College where the CUNY Board of Trustees was meeting.

Led by their bullhorn toting union president, Barbara Bowen, these seemingly mild mannered academics and support staff chanted, “What do we want? A contract. When do we want it? We want it now,” as they marched.

PSC-CUNY protest 3

Members of other unions including Local One, I.A.S.T.E., the stage hand workers union, DC 37, representing city workers, librarians, and the Union of Clerical and Technical Staff at New York University as well as SAG-AFTRA, which represents actors, joined the march to show union solidarity

The PSC/CUNY contract expired on November 30th. That freezes the pay-rate until a new contract can be agreed upon. This is particularly tough for part-time professors known as adjuncts who typically teach two classes each semester, “We teach two-thirds of a full course load and get one-third of the pay,” said Adjunct Professor David Hohl. He has had part-time status at Baruch College for seventeen years and says he earns $26,000 a year.

The union claims that 12,000 part-time adjuncts, earning $27,000 a year or less, teach more than half the courses. In a news release PSC CUNY said, “CUNY is the single most successful university in the country enabling poor and working-class graduates to achieve long-term economic security. Yet leading professors consistently turn down positions at CUNY and many current professors leave because the salaries are so uncompetitive.”

Peter Consenstein, professor of French at BMCC and the Graduate Center said, “We serve as a pipeline into better jobs and the middle class. We work our butts off.”

The pay freeze worries full as well as part-time professors, and others covered by the contract, because of the rising cost of living. The last time their contract expired it took six years to negotiate a new one. “We are not waiting six years for a new contract,” said Scott Sheidlower, staff librarian at York College in Queens.

Paula Whitlock a full-time, tenured professor of Computer and Information Science at the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) said the protest and demands are important for everyone. “Either we all rise together or we all fall together,” she said.

CUNY’s reliance on part-time adjuncts reflects a practice in the corporate world where companies rely heavily on free-lance employees who don’t get the full package of benefits. The union claims underfunding by New York State and New City keeps salaries low and hampers CUNY’s mission.

“CUNY is often a political pawn in the bigger political game. When that happens students are disregarded as unimportant.” said Professor Peter Consenstein.

Supporters can follow on Twitter with the following hashtags, #7KCUNY, #FAIRPAY4ALL, and #NO6YEARWAIT.