Saturday, December 9, 2017

Fake News, Clickbait, And the Era of Trolling

Ryan Parent

There is no doubt that our generation loves to see something go wrong.  We want to drama and excitement in all walks of life including our news.  Due to this eagerness to find something captivating online, more and more fake news channels are popping up in order to grab our attention and feed us half-baked stories made up by someone in a matter of 10 minutes.

For those who are not aware of these practices, clickbait is the act of creating a headline that leaves much to the imagination but creates a sense of urgency.  For example, Paris Wade and Ben Goldman of have been using clickbait headlines such as “Cant Trust Obama. Look At The Sick Thing He Just Did To Stab Trump In The Back.” The article itself was made up almost entirely of opinion and rumor but the captivating headline would bring in a huge wave of readers as well as supporters who believe articles like this to be the whole truth.

On the bright side, reports that like most trends, clickbait will not be around forever.  They explain that Facebook is currently making an effort to regulate clickbait through surveys and user input to deliver stories that seem like they would be interesting to you instead of what has been clicked on the most.  User input is going to be huge in getting rid of clickbait.  If we want to get information based off of what we like, we need to make it known that we have interests beyond what is currently trending. (Link:

As for trolling, trolling is the act of creating a headline in order to get a rise out of somebody.  So even if the viewer is not interested in the content, they click on the story strictly because they want to know who would have such an opinion or how the author could possibly justify such a post.  Trolling creates a world with no trust in journalists or their stories.  In fact it is an insult to journalism itself as it capitalizes on getting viewers instead of educating the public.
It may seem like these are not huge problems in the long run but that is simply not true.  Social media and its journalistic influence played an especially huge role in politics in the past couple years and especially with the last election.  Political bots share propaganda constantly while also influencing political discourse online to influence voters.  Freedom Of The Net reported that because of this, Internet freedom has declined for the seventh consecutive year. also reported that these bots now make up for half of all Internet traffic worldwide. (Link:

The world of journalism is in an increasingly volatile place at the moment and it will take strong action to begin returning it to its glory days.  Technology makes it increasingly difficult to control your media intake as well as to tell whether it is true or not.  Ironically enough it looks like social media outlets will be the ones to help fix this epidemic but then, is this really such a good idea in itself? Only time will tell.

Social Media and Fake News

Xiaoyun Ma

The print readership is declining while trust in the news media is at an all-time low. However, the digital news world boasts about 5,000 digital news sector jobs which focus on engaging their audience through social media such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, according to Pew Research Center.

“In the digital age, it is easier than ever to publish false information, which is quickly shared and taken to be true,” said Katherine Viner, the new editor-in-chief in a long-form Guardian editorial-cum-mission statement.

Through the wireless internet, people have seen the world more than they were used to seeing, not only disclosing new and often uncomfortable truths, but also undermining the traditional concept of truth. Because of social media, everyone could have live streaming his or her stories on Periscope or Facebook, which traditional journalism such as Radio or Newspapers has not done before.

The digital technologies have reinforced the citizen journalism and empowered potent truths to emerge from the swamp through an unfiltered lens. The prominent instances of citizen videos could be traced back to the 1963 Zapruder film of the Kennedy assassination and the event of Arab Spring.

“First-hand witnesses cannot see the big picture,” said Yves Eudes, a reporter at French-based broadsheet Le Monde. “They’re not trained to understand whether what they’re seeing is relevant to the big picture or to see what really happens.” Unlike traditional journalism where it’s relatively safe to presume the news circulated is accurate. Through apps like Twitter’s Periscope, anyone could record and have live videos anything, and they post it as fact. The primary goal of journalism is to be fair and objective, but the story angle and the excess excitement that citizen journalists on social media provide could be discriminated and narrow.

The live-streaming used to rely on the satellites and professional television cameras. Nowadays, the generalization of the smartphones has made “going viral” as easy as clicking on the apps. None the less, the live-streaming incidents of police shootings and the suicide of teenagers have raised the questions about the accountability and ethics code of the digital technologies.

Philando Castile, a black motorist, was fatally shot by the Minnesota police officer. Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, who broadcast the shooting’s aftermath on Facebook. The case had involved the racial tension and the violence, which is arguable in public debate on whether should using a moral filter to content. Since the live-videos social media has gradually become an important source for mainstream news outlets, it might be necessary to censor the unappropriated content such as discrimination, nudity, and violence.

On the other hand, since everyone could have self-reporting, people nowadays post fabricated stories or share the link of clickbait without even take a close look. In this tightly connected world, no matter how significant advancement the technology could bring to the truth industry, fact-checking and re-checking is more necessary than ever before. One of the crucial features of technology in the journalism is low cost and speed, which could be a double-edged sword. With the fast speed and zero costs, gossip websites like TMZ and are filled with either fake news which based on either groundless rumors or complete fabrication.

No matter how overwhelmed transformation the newest technology could bring to the journalism, the news reporting is always about seeking and reporting truth objectively.

Transparency and the Modern Day Journalist

Sam Smith

Since the beginning of journalism, the core values have remained the same. Journalists must remain honest, truthful, and transparent. This being said, as time has gone on and technology developed, these core values are being presented through new, alternative outlets.

In their book the New Ethics of Journalism, editors Kelly McBride and Tom Rosenstiel state that, “while acknowledging that getting the facts right remains journalism’s core function – and that includes trying to get at ‘the truth about the fact’, as the Hutchins Commission put it in 1947 – much of how we discern and articulate the truth is changing.”

Though the end results remain the same, the means of obtaining and interpreting those results has drastically changed. More voices, more materials, and more platforms are flooding the brain of the modern consumer. Before the 21st century just two channels, print and television, dominated news. Through these two channels money could be generated through advertising and independence was established.  Because news was generated from a distance, the public consumer rarely questioned the transparency of the news they were receiving. That has all changed.

Below is a video of Tom Rosenstiel’s Tedx Talk on the future of Journalism.

The New Truth

In today’s media landscape, the flow of communication flows so much more than one way. Instead of the consumer simply receiving and interpreting news, new outlets allow for the consumer to easily question the information they are receiving. Social media, forums, and the overall digital movement has made for a more open interpretation of news information by the general public. This adaptation has put more pressure on independent news organizations to emphasize the transparency of their news. The sources they use, information they publish, and evidence included in reporting can all be questioned immediately. Credibility has become a cornerstone of the public’s demand for their news.

Is This Good or Bad?

Deciding if this new stage of journalism is positive or negative is an opinionated question, but evidence suggests that this movement is one of progression. As previously stated, the foundation of journalism was to administer the truth in an honest and transparent manner to the public. Through these new forms of communication, the public has garnered more power as critics of the news they receive.

The modern public is no longer just on the receiving end of their news. Now, they are a part of it. New platforms of communication have made for an entire new community filled with reporters and the public. Social media allows the public to question, comment, share, and explore the news they receive immediately. This new community aspect, if utilized correctly, can help to create a positive relationship between reporters and the public.

What Should Journalists Do?

The modern day journalist should have one main priority in response to this new era of reporting. Transparency. Transparency is the utmost of importance when serving the truth to this new public. It is important for journalists to put themselves in the shoes of the public they are serving, question themselves, and seek out every opportunity possible they can to be transparent with the public.

For more of Rosenstiel’s thoughts on the future of journalism, feel free to read his Washington Post article “Five myths about the future of journalism” at

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Is Drone Use too Invasive?

Mikaela McGee

                                                                  Gadget Flow Inc.

Within the last few years, there has been an increasing use of drones throughout the world. Many people use drones for recreational use because, well it can be very entertaining to fly them around and take amazing pictures from heights only someone in a plane or helicopter could reach. Drone accessibility is on the rise due to them becoming more affordable as well. As of 2016, consumer drones could be bought for as cheap as $40. With drones becoming more widespread and accessible, there have been many ethical questions that have arisen.

The ability to take pictures from the sky is a very powerful thing when it comes to the journalism field. But with that comes abuse, especially in the forms of safety and privacy. Why? Because there is a chance that what is captured on the drone's camera may invade someone's privacy. When journalists fly drones they are not prone to asking the people that they take pictures of for permission.

There is also the question about private and public property because air spaces are included. When people are flying drones, many of these questions are ignored and that is not good journalism.

When Cyclone Pam tore through Vanuatu in March 2015, 17,000 buildings were destroyed or damaged and 65,000 people were displaced from their homes. Journalists used drones to fly other the devastation and capture photos of the destruction. But, was this right? Due to the roofs of many houses being torn off, the drones could have captured very private moments between the families residing in the houses.

So how do we as journalists and drone users ethically deal with this issue? According to the Professional Society of Drone Journalists they use a code of ethics that ranks values from highest to lowest.
Matthew Schroyer,

The list goes: newsworthiness, safety, sanctity of law and public spaces, privacy, and traditional journalism ethics. Using this code journalists should be able to gage when it is appropriate to release the images captured with the drone. 

Pointer recently held a workshop where they trained 325 journalists and journalism educators on how to safely and ethically fly a drone. In their published article, one of the important points that they make is "would you do that if you were capturing the same image on the ground?" Meaning, if you were to peer over a fence, look into a window, or go on private property, how would you be able to justify capturing the same image while airborne? You wouldn't.

While currently there is a voluntary code of conduct used amongst the humanitarian community, there is not a set code for private and commercial entities. I believe that a code of conduct for flying drones could only help journalists because it would help us be ethical and respectful towards the public. 

This is very important because unethical journalism can only be fought with accurate and ethical journalism. Therefore, while it is okay for journalists to use drones to take outstanding photos and document events, we should not be able to take it too far as to intrude in the lives of others. 

Drones: Do Their Capabilities Need Restricting?

Gabbey Albright

Photo retrieved from the Columbia Journalism Review

People have been talking about drones for a while now. How futuristic these small flying decisive sound- literally when they whiz over your head. Additionally, how popular they have become. 2.5 million were sold in 2016 according to the Fortune magazine. But what is their purpose?

Some people choose to buy drones strictly for recreational use. With other technological devices becoming increasingly similar just in different models, the drone is something that has really stood out. It’s an easy thing to put on any birthday or Christmas list and can be a toy for all ages. After all, it is pretty fascinating to be able to see your location from the viewpoint of the clouds. One can choose from many different brands and model types. These models either come equipped with a camera or without one. Usually, the better quality the camera and the more footage it can store- the more expensive the product.

What if drones are used for more than just a toy?

So what about these drones with lenses? Now they are being utilized by people for more than recreational use. Media companies and news organizations have realized that these drones have massive potential. They are capable of capturing some pretty high-quality footage and are much less expensive than a helicopter ride.

This sounds great, right? But what's the glitch? Well, drones are virtually undetectable besides their little buzzing noise their little propellers create and can record practically anything. This can hold an issue for debating what is public and private property- which airspace can be both.

Konstantin Kakaes from the Columbia Journalism Review mentioned that journalist and first responders ran into an ethical dilemma after the Cyclone, palm, went through Vanuatu in the South Pacific in 2015. Since the cyclone ripped off most of the affected areas roofs, the drones were able to see into their homes. The problem arose in deciding what footage was able to be used. Technically, their homes are their private property and that is protected.

Is an Ethical Code needed?

This dilemma had led “many in the humanitarian community (to) adopted a voluntary code of conduct that lays out some guidelines about how to fly drones safely and gather information in a way that respects people’s privacy”.

Although, there is no official code of conduct for the other type of organizations that are filling the airspace with drones. Many media organizations are resisting any sort of regulation.

Their argument here is backed up by the fact that anywhere in public, one can take a picture. If someone is in a public area in the United States they have the full expectation that someone could take a photograph of them. Therefore, any photograph taken in public in the United States may be published without the people in the photograph permission.

This fact prompts drone users to ask why new rules would be created simply because of this new technology at play. Arguably, there were capabilities of retrieving the same footage that drones are getting now, it was just much more costly so it was much rarer. Now, people can virtually be recorded at any given time someone wants to fly a drone over them.


Diamond Jeune

Clickbait is something that is described as not everything you see is what you get. In clickbait you are only provided information that is appealing to the eyes. Meaning that not all of the information that you are getting is in fact true.

Clickbait's main location is through social media. One way to tell what clickbait actually is by simply clicking on it and seeing what it is about. They are either hit or miss. Focus on how long people spend time reading an article away from their social media site, if they read it they found something time worthy, if they remove it its because it wasn't worthwhile.

Clickbait are often considered to be original content that is the reason why there is no problem with sharing it online for your friends to see.

Examples of clickbait stories are 1. Science says lasting relationships came down to two basic traits.

This article is marketed towards those who are married not those where in relationships and the two traits were kindness and generosity and how to show them to your spouse.

Another clickbait example is What Makes Women Attractive.  The six traits are considered to be women who have high voices, healthy hair, smiling, less makeup, red clothes, and larger waist to hip ratio. Rather then being kind and loving being the most attractive things.

What you see in clickbait is honestly what you don't get.

With the advancements in technology you have to be careful in what you choose to consume and take part in. Because often times just because things are out there doesn't mean it is all good.

Live streaming can be fun and wholesome but it depends on what you are sharing.

For example a group of teens had live streamed a man who is disabled drowning and instead of helping him or calling for help they just watched him die.

Another live stream gone wrong occurs when an 18-year-old is driving under the influence
and she tragically kills her sister.

These two different incidences show the drastic and horrific stuff that occurs in the world and unfortunately it was documented.

Clickbait Fishes To Deceive Readers

Emily O'Flynn

Who are we supposed to trust anymore? Trust in the media is at an all-time low. The media is constantly criticized by leaders in today's political climate for distributing "fake news."

In a The Washington Post article, a 26-year-old explains how he has risen on his website's platform to profit from posting his own opinions. "You have to trick people into reading the news," said Paris Wade, writer for The articles written for the website take about ten minutes to compose. Elaborating more on the strategy behind receiving clicks, Ben Goldman says, "Our audience does not trust the mainstream media. It's definitely easier to hook them in with that." Less-informed individuals are being reeled into a trap, believing that the mainstream media is evil and trusting less credible news sources.

Some believe it should be left to social media platforms to filter out fake news with real news. According to Joshua Benton of Nieman Lab, Facebook has capabilities to filter the news. "One simple one would be to hire editors to manage what shows up in its Trending section - one major way misinformation gets spread. Facebook canned its Trending editors after it got pushback from conservatives; that was an act of cowardice, and since then, fake news stories have been algorithmically pushed out to millions with alarming frequency."
Image via

What it all comes down to is personal responsibility. If you feel that you have fallen victim to a fake news story based on an intriguing headline, worry no more! Below are three tips to spot clickbait before you even click on it:

Sounds unbelievable
Have you ever seen a headline that looked too good to be true? Odds are, it's not real news. According to the Columbia Journalism Review, the new trend in journalism is trolling readers through headlines. "Only a small percentage of people read the stories they are sharing. But the more something is shared, the more people will see it, the more will click. As long as it doesn't completely destroy brand credibility, hate-sharing - when someone broadcasts an enraging link to followers - is just as valuable for a site as sincere, thoughtful interplay with its work," says Kira Goldenberg.

You haven't heard of the news source
Although there are plenty of reputable publications you haven't heard of before, there are some forms of media that purposefully want to trick you into believing certain things. Before clicking on the article, research who is releasing the article. The following are questions you can ask yourself when researching the website: What are their sources? Does it say somewhere that it is a parody account? Does the website seem to lean in a certain direction politically?

At the end of the day, we are individually responsible for the news we consume. We are responsible for the news that we share with others via word of mouth or social media. We are responsible for the repercussions of sharing particular news. I don't trust my friends on social media to check their own sources, but I believe in myself to make educated decisions about what information is accurate and worth sharing.