We’re not fake news and CBS News is full of it; not literally.
The Context Behind Fake News
The discussion about fake news and its potential impact on the Republic is everywhere. And rightfully so – we live in a world – now thanks to social media – where people no longer have to confront ideas that run counter to their own worldly perspectives. On social media – you choose who you follow, you unfollow the people you don’t want to hear from and you block anyone or anything you’d like; you get to live in your very own online safe space. This means people can live in their own personal bubbles of cognitive dissonance surrounded by mostly like minded people; this is all thanks to algorithms that decide what you do and do not want to see.
This allows for gross distortions and lies to spread. There are countless people who believe that climate change is a hoax, the Newtown massacre was a false flag attack, that President Obama is a secret Muslim, that a Clinton linked pedophile ring operates out of Comet pizza in D.C., death panels from Obamacare, sharia law is taking over, FEMA camps, Jade Helm, and the list goes on and on. Fake news is a thing, it’s real and we must defend against it.
I’ve never been a fan of talking poorly about the so called mainstream media; it’s a broad brush that’s used to convey a message of disdain without having any specifics usually. The media fucks up now and again; by and large – I think they do a great job. If the issue is about trying to get down to the facts – the facts are there for the public as long as they aren’t willfully ignoring it. Unfortunately – the public usually does just that.
The Timeline Of The Defamation
So – with all of that context – If You Only News has now been labeled “fake news”. Needless to say – all of us at IYON are offended by the designation; it’s not accurate and we strenuously disagree. And how this happened is so instructive into how multiple news organizations operate. It’s horribly ironic because this is what “fake news” sites are accused of doing. Here’s the timeline:
On 9/18/16 – a liberal blogger added this site and other liberal sites to a list of sites to avoid due to his concern for clickbaity headlines; you can see ‘Please stop sharing links to these sites” HERE. Who wrote it? Don’t know. What evidence did he lay out? None. He had an opinion; fair enough. The liberal blogger didn’t like us. It hurt our feelings but it’s his opinion.
Around 11/14/16 – an associate professor named Melissa Zimdars posted a link online for her students where she lumped fake news, satirical news, misleading news and clickbaity headlines into one list. She put together a long list of unverified sites based on recommendations from various unnamed people and she put it out on the internet to see. When you look for fake news on the internet – that’s what comes up.
She placed If You Only News on that list without designation; she infers in her now retracted list that she used the list from the blogger mentioned above. She meant to get around to it but for anyone looking at the list – IYON could be any of the four previously mentioned categories.
1 stands for fake news, 2 is misleading, 3 is clickbait and 4 is satire. IYON is left blank. The associate professor took down her list eventually but only after stories were written about it countless times defaming countless sites. She made the false equivalency that clickbaity attention grabbing headlines are the same as fake news. She wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post saying that her list was mischaracterized HERE and she also updated her list so that it no longer has the list of sites due to her awful, horrible execution of a well intended project that went horribly fucked up beyond all recognition. You can see the updated online posting HERE.
After writing our concerns to her, her boss and the Dean of the university as well as several phone calls – this was her standard response; notice that she did not defend her list in any way (because it’s indefensible):
Thank you for emailing me, and my apologies for the delay in responding (I haven’t yet dug through most of the emails I’ve received over the last two weeks). I never created a fake news list, rather I created a resource containing a variety of websites for my students to analyze. Thus, I have also been disappointed by some of the media coverage of this teaching resource, and I have been very vocal in interviews and in my own writing about this particular matter.
And this debunked, undefended list that the associate professor acknowledges in her own words was never intended to be a “fake news list” has been used as the cornerstone for accusations of fake news. The associate professor of communications can’t even defend her own list; irony.
CBS News Says We’re Fake News
On 12/2/16 – a young journalist by the name of Elisha Fieldstadt put together a list of so called “fake news sites” that she headlined “Don’t get fooled by these fake news sites”. You can see that as of 12/4/16 – it had her name attributed to it HERE; unfortunately – CBS News has scrubbed her name from the slideshow of ‘fake news’ (source).
It is telling that CBS News went out of its way to take down the name of the author after they blacklisted our site and several others. Let me also start out by saying that Elisha Fieldstadt was very professional and I give her tremendous credit to have the integrity to respond to our inquiries, to review our concerns and to engage in a dialogue.
It’s important to note that while our disagreements with her and CBS News are in substance – she’s probably an awesome person that many people would find likeable etc. She’s not a bad person – presumably … she had to come up with a list of fake news sources and we became collateral damage through her shoddy research. That being said – I was embarrassed by her responses and defense of her position to us. I have redacted any personal information from the email correspondence including both of our emails and her cell and work numbers. We had a phone conversation and she was kind enough to correspond with me on email:
Elisha Fieldstadt, Staff Writer
Daniel Gouldman <[email protected]>
Dec 5 at 5:25 PM
#1 – If you look at the actual article in question – we published a retraction at the very top of the article. I don’t think this demonstrates a lack of integrity; fake news organizations don’t do this. We just got it wrong. Even the title says “may have”.
#5 – Your last source was from a blog of an unnamed author who didn’t even cite any sources or justifications to defend his accusations.
That’s all you could come up with? You didn’t source even one of our articles directly. I can’t believe this is how you justify defining us as fake news. If my writers sent me this – I would be very unhappy with their lack of due diligence. Can you understand how what you sent me is horribly ironic and indefensible from my point of view?
From: Elisha Fieldstadt < [email protected]>
To: Daniel Gouldman < [email protected]> Sent: Tuesday, December 6, 2016 11:22 AM Subject: Re: Fwd: sources
Alright. If you’re not happy with my sources, I can easily personally scan the site and find headlines and summaries that are wildly misleading. Even if the articles are accurate, the headlines still lie making the site a distributor of fake news. Some of the most damaging fake news stories were ones that ended up on social media, that may not have even linked to an article, but people spotted the headline in their feeds and believed it.
Here are some examples:
He did not say children were killed. He said lives could have been saved. That’s very different. Your headline makes it sound like he directly connected the recount to murdered children. Misleading. He never used the word killed and yet it’s in all caps in your articlelevel headline.
The AP in their stylebook said nothing about Trump supporters. This headline makes it sound like they did. They also don’t say not to use “altright,” they said to clarify it. See the difference in the Hill headline that you linked to:
And in this summary, the site is accusing Matt Drudge of a crime. Has he been charged, convicted? This is very dangerous.
I get the idea of clickbait and needing to differentiate yourselves, but in doing that, the site is crossing the line to producing headlines that are inaccurate, misleading and false, meaning the news being spread is fake. You can be clicky (maybe not as clicky, but still garner traffic) without making things up / stretching and distorting the truth. Please realize that people may see your headlines without clicking into the article. Then they may believe that The Associated Press is encouraging people to call all Trump supporters racists ect.. See how this is dangerous?
Elisha Fieldstadt, Staff Writer
CBSNews.com + Central Audience Development 212-xxx-xxxx | 631xxx-xxxx [email protected] @Eli_Fieldstadt
Our Second Response
On Tue, Dec 6, 2016 at 2:48 PM, Daniel Gouldman <[email protected]> wrote: Elisha I called you again but no response. I appreciate you taking the time to look at the site finally; I wildly disagree with what your definition of ‘fake news’. I am frustrated that you’re entrenching yourself here lumping us in with these other sites who actually make stuff up.
First example: If Eric Trump says not doing the recount could have saved 5,000 lives then what is the opposite? People will die. That’s what he is saying. The headline was honest and not misleading. No sane person would think that there would be a direct relationship between having the recount and it killing people; it’s inherent in his language that people will die if you do the recount. That’s exactly what he said.
“The Sad Truth: The Cost Of Stein/Clinton’s #Wisconsin Vote Recount Could Have Saved At Least 5,000 Children’s Lives “
So what does that mean to anyone using logic? 5k children will die. You call us fake news but here are the headlines for Raw Story:
#2 The title is not to be taken literally. It isn’t sarcastic either. It is well known that the so called “altright” movement which is now being labeled as white supremacists by the AP are by and large Trump supporters … in very large numbers. It is known and spoken about in all parts of mainstream, traditional news that Trump’s win is connected with the rise in white nationalism. This is in the news.
So not all Trump supporters are white nationalists but almost all of them are Trump supporters. Our readers know this. Once again the story is honest. The AP is no longer using the term ‘alt right’ and our audience knows exactly what we’re saying. And frankly so should anyone who reads the news.
#3 We did not accuse Drudge of a crime. In the meta data lead in it says ‘this is nothing short of criminal’ which is an expression and not to be taken literally.
I am shocked this is the best you can do to support the accusation we’re fake news. If I haven’t convinced you with my responses I would like to speak to your boss please. Who can I contact?
Because this is ridiculous. We are an editorial based partisan news aggregator. That’s who we are. You are critiquing us because you don’t like the editorial flair that we add to our very honest, sourced news stories.
Daniel Gouldman XXX-XXX-XXXX
Sent: Tuesday, December 6, 2016 1:57 PM
Subject: Re: Fwd: sources
You said twice here that your headlines are not to be taken literally.
Definition of literal
a : according with the letter of the scriptures
b : adhering to fact or to the ordinary construction or primary meaning of a term or expression : actual
c : free from exaggeration or embellishment <the literal truth>
d : characterized by a concern mainly with facts <a very literal man>
Antonyms for literal: counterfeit dishonest false falsified unreal abnormal embellished inaccurate exaggerated imaginative loose
Educating Ms. Fieldstadt That Not All News Is Literal
Ms. Fieldstadt’s response – while pithy – did her no favors. Presumably – all headlines are too be taken literally and any that are not literal must be inherently “fake news”. So here are some examples of headlines that aren’t to be taken literally. Let me state equivocally the next few responses are sarcastic in nature and not to be taken literally for anyone that may suffer from Literal News Reader Syndrome:
Apparently – Joy Behar is dead; she exploded. RIP 12.6.16
Paul Krugman is the first to report that Americans voted against Obamacare in an apparent unknown referendum.
President Obama rang a bell in the middle of an interview while slamming their organization to the ground presumably a body slam or some other sort of physical contact
The Pentagon dug a hole and buried a report that would be embarrassing to them
A young Syrian girl feared dead is ok; she’s just tweeting from Hell now. Apparently there is an after life; WIN! Still no news as to which God exists; South Park said it’s the Mormons. More to come.
And if that doesn’t convince you – author Sylvia Jaki explains in her book Phraseological Substitutions in Newspaper Headlines: “More than Meats the Eye” that human beings have the ability to process language figuratively not just literally; specifically with newspaper headlines HERE:
In short – not everything is read literally.
If you’ve gotten this far and most of you haven’t – here’s the bottom line. The mainstream media has done a horrible job by and large in its reporting of so called “fake news”. As one of the two owners of If You Only News – I can tell our readers that we care about honest reporting, legitimate sources and facts. That should not be mischaracterized as a stale, just the facts ma’am kind of reporting. That isn’t our mission and we don’t pretend to be unbiased.
We have an opinion. We’re liberal and share views through a liberal prism. This doesn’t equate to fake, and this doesn’t equate to illegitimate. We didn’t tell our readers that Climate Change isn’t a real thing. We didn’t tell our readers incorrectly that Obama was coming for their guns. We didn’t ask our readers incorrectly whether Obama isn’t a secret Muslim born in Kenya. We aren’t lying to our readers and so far – we’ve seen not one example where our stories were factually incorrect that hasn’t had a retraction.
We didn’t lie to our readers about ANY of the 50 fact checked lies that Fox News shared with its viewers; you can see those HERE.
In the 2016 election – the media made the grave error of equating Hillary Clinton’s email scandal as being equivalent to the scandals and huge conflicts and constitutional questions that would arise out of a Trump presidency. In order not to appear too biased – media organizations were expected to address the questions of both candidates as if they were equal in their gravity.
The same is being done today with the discussion of fake news. The vast majority of distortions and lies are coming from the right wing news sites. We aren’t a bunch of teenagers from Macedonia making up news to make money; we’re Americans with a liberal view of what the United States stands for and what it should be. It’s very tempting to say that while the right wing has its share of crazies and fake news – so does the left.
But the truth of the matter is that by and large – while some stories on the liberal news editorial side can be clickbaity and even potentially too aggressive with headlines to grab attention – we don’t make shit up. We aren’t creating fake news. Do some people fuck up? Of course – and those people should be held accountable. The false equivalency of fake news in order to seem balanced as if this issue were entrenched on both sides of the political sphere needs to stop.