Real Journalist or Fake News Blogger? 5 Red Flags to Look For

journalist-or-blogger

There are a lot of bloggers who self-describe as “journalists.” Unfortunately, the majority of them write articles that lack most of the fundamentals that make an article journalistic. Before casting serious stones, it’s important to set the guidelines for what journalistic writing actually looks like. We’ll outline some common mistakes bloggers make, and look at a few examples of articles that fail the “good journalism” litmus test. What Is Good Journalism? The best guidelines for good journalism come from the American Press Association and their publication Principles of Journalism. In 1997, a team of journalists worked for four years holding…

Read the full article: Real Journalist or Fake News Blogger? 5 Red Flags to Look For

There are a lot of bloggers who self-describe as “journalists.” Unfortunately, the majority of them write articles that lack most of the fundamentals that make an article journalistic.

Before casting serious stones, it’s important to set the guidelines for what journalistic writing actually looks like. We’ll outline some common mistakes bloggers make, and look at a few examples of articles that fail the “good journalism” litmus test.

What Is Good Journalism?

The best guidelines for good journalism come from the American Press Association and their publication Principles of Journalism.

In 1997, a team of journalists worked for four years holding public forums, studying journalism history, an surveying journalists around the country. The group finally published nine principles of journalism they called a Statement of Shared Purpose.

Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) Director Tom Rosenstiel and PEJ Senio Counselor Bill Kovach cowrote a book based on those principles, titled The Elements of Journalism.

There are nine principles of journalism in total, but in this article we’ll be focusing on the five most important ones.

1. Journalism’s First Obligation Is to the Truth

Journalists should work hard on “assembling and verifying facts.” The Statement of Share Purpose calls this a discipline because it takes immense discipline to take the time to verify facts. This is especially true if the facts turn out to disprove your own previously held beliefs.

As the Statement explains:

“Journalists should be as transparent as possible about sources and methods, so audiences can make their own assessment of the information.”

The best journalism identifies sources or research methods, and doesn’t try to misrepresent research findings to support a belief, by leaving out important facts.

One example of this is an article published on The Next Web that covered a report released by Stripe called “The Developer Coefficient,” which detailed how companies may not be fully leveraging their existing population of developers.

A source link to the actual report is never provided. Halfway through the article, the author begins opining about Brexit:

“This [lack of developer talent] is something that’s been made even more acute by the UK’s impending departure from the European Union. With the prospect of a hugely damaging hard Brexit, and an uncertain visa regime for EU-27 citizens, Britain has never looked more unattractive to foreign talent.”

This is odd, considering the report itself says the main takeaway from the report shouldn’t be lack of talent, but leveraging existing talent:

“This underscores the most important point about developers as force-multipliers: It’s not how many devs companies have; it’s how they’re being leveraged.”

If you read the actual study [PDF], you’ll see that Brexit is only mentioned once. And it’s at the very bottom of a list of reasons C-Level executives offered for which factors threatening the success of a business the most:

threats to businesses

The top reasons were actually security and data breaches, increased regulation, and disruption from the tech industry.

Red flags: Lack of source links and a misrepresentation of facts.

2. Journalism’s First Loyalty Is to Citizens

Journalists must remain loyal to citizens, accurately reporting truths that serve citizen’s best interests, even if those interests go against the interests of the journalist’s own employer.

One example of a failure of this principle was Buzzfeed’s use of native advertising. Articles portrayed as news often became indistinguishable from advertisements:

buzzfeed native marketing

It didn’t take long for the site to come within the crosshairs of journalistic watchdog groups. In 2016, British ad regulator ASA ruled that one of Buzzfeed’s posts breached UK advertising regulations.

It should come as no surprise, then, that in July of 2018, Buzzfeed News finally stripped away native advertising for news articles altogether.

Red flags: Articles that overtly (or even subtly) promote a specific brand without providing much evidence. Such articles often avoid doing any hard comparisons with any other brands at all.

3. Journalism’s Essence Is Discipline of Verification

Verification of information is something that has fallen by the wayside in recent years. We have Twitter and Facebook to blame for fake news—people can easily put forth all sorts of unverified claims as fact.

These get shared and forwarded as fact, until someone finally decides to verify:

fact checking

The problem is that many bloggers often jump on the same bandwagon and write stories without properly verifying claims.

The APA describes the importance of verification for journalists.

“It called, rather, for a consistent method of testing information […] precisely so that personal and cultural biases would not undermine the accuracy of their work. The method is objective; not the journalist.”

The APA goes on to explain steps journalists should take to verify claims.

  • Interviewing multiple witnesses
  • Revealing as much as possible about your sources
  • Asking for comments from both sides, especially for controversial issues

One of my own articles failed in this respect. Back in 2012, I’d read some claims made on forums published by former Mormons, and so decided pay one of my writers to do an article on weird Mormon beliefs:

example mormon article

This is why many bloggers fail. I paid a blogger a paltry fee to take my brief research and do a writeup. She did not interview Mormons, and it’s this lack of obtaining viewpoints from the opposite side that made this piece fail as a work of journalism. Many Mormons commented on the article, and it was a hard lesson to learn—but an important one.

Red flags: You can recognize this form of failed journalism when the quotes you read only come from one side of the controversy, or comments from the other side are immediately dismissed by the blogger.

4. Journalists Must Maintain Independence

Probably one of the hardest things for journalists to do is maintain independence from the story. Many people misunderstand this as meaning “neutrality,” but that’s not it. It’s a journalist’s ability to use “intellectual fairness” and fully inform the audience about both sides of an issue.

Even professional journalists fail here. There’s no clearer example of this than past US Presidential elections.

During the 2016 election, most mainstream news outlets believed Hillary Clinton had the election wrapped up. There was no chance that someone like Donald Trump could ever win. But on election night, once it became clear Donald Trump had actually won, the shock, anger, and disbelief became clear:

In the video above, at 6:00, one MSNBC journalist tries to correlate a 700-point drop in the stock market to Trump’s win. At 6:45, they deem Trump the “apparent” winner for Florida.

Around 7:20, an MSNBC journalist loudly makes an “uuugh” disgusted sound after announcing Trump’s growing lead. The 13:45 mark shows a CBC News panelist reacting to Trump’s win by saying “America’s religious values and moral center is also nonsense, just like the polls were.”

The same was true years earlier during President Obama’s re-election. Have a look at how FOX journalists responded when Obama won that election:

The Statement of Shared Purpose describes this as follows.

“While editorialists and commentators are not neutral, the source of their credibility is still their accuracy, intellectual fairness and ability to inform, not their devotion to a certain group or outcome.”

Politics is one area where even professional journalists break down and fail in their duty to adhere to the principles of journalism.

Red flags: Keep an eye out for emotionally-charged words like “terrible,” “tragedy,” or other words that invoke a powerful emotional response. When writers use this kind of language, it’s always to convey their own emotions rather than straight reporting of news.

5. Keep the News Comprehensive and Proportional

Biased language also comes into play in how writers sensationalize stories, or make their coverage of something extremely negative or positive.

The Statement of Shard Purpose describes how many journalists fail this principle.

“Inflating events for sensation, neglecting others, stereotyping or being disproportionately negative all make a less reliable map.”

What does this look like in the real world? Across the blogosphere, this is most common. Especially in coverage of heated debates, like the constant war between iPhone and Android advocates:

One example of this is an article on Cramber.com, where the author starts out by saying “I am not an Apple hater,” then proceeds to use language like the following throughout the article:

  • ” …why the iPhone still beats Android are pathetic at best…”
  • “…Not convincing at all…”
  • “…it should be a no-brainer…”
  • “…Apple goes through a tedious process..”
  • “…has common sense just flown out the window…”
  • “…Are you serious?…”
  • “…It’s thievery…”

Journalism is about thoroughly exploring both sides of an argument in an unbiased way, and presenting the results of that research as thoroughly and fairly as possible. There’s nothing fair about using emotionally charged words to try and influence the reader to lean toward your own point of view.

Red flags: Emotionally charged words used throughout the article.

Other Principles of Journalism

Even though we haven’t discussed the remaining principles of journalism in full here, they are still important. They include all of the following:

  • Serves as an independent monitor of power
  • Provides a forum for public criticism and compromise
  • Strives to make the significant interesting and relevant
  • Its practitioners must be allowed to exercise their personal conscience

So if you’re a blogger hoping to “do journalism,” or you’re a reader looking to follow bloggers who really do follow all of the principles of journalism, use the guide above to help you identify the best ones to follow.

Also, remember that fact-checking responsibility often falls on you as a reader. Especially given the fake news and shoddy writing that proliferates the internet these days. We have a great list of fact checking sites you can use to get started.

Read the full article: Real Journalist or Fake News Blogger? 5 Red Flags to Look For

Google’s newest app Blog Compass helps bloggers in India manage their sites

Google has been heavily focused on serving the needs of Indian web users with the recent launch of apps like Tez for payments, Areo for food ordering, Neighbourly for communities, data-friendly versions of apps like Search and YouTube, and others. Now, the company is launching an app to serve the need of Indian bloggers with an […]

Google has been heavily focused on serving the needs of Indian web users with the recent launch of apps like Tez for payments, Areo for food ordering, Neighbourly for communities, data-friendly versions of apps like Search and YouTube, and others. Now, the company is launching an app to serve the need of Indian bloggers with an app called “Blog Compass.”

The new app, now in beta, quietly popped up in the Google Play Store this week with a note that’s it’s “only available in India.”

According to its Play Store description, Blog Compass helps bloggers manage their sites and find topics to write about based on Google’s trending topics. These suggestions will also be based on the bloggers’ interests and posting history, it says.

The app also helps bloggers manage their sites by tracking their site stats, approving comments and reading through tips for how to make their blogs more successful.

It works with both Google’s own Blogger.com blogs as well as with WordPress sites. These are two of the largest platforms used by bloggers around the world. WordPress alone powers around 30 percent of websites, in fact.

Blog Compass feels something like an introductory app for those who aren’t as familiar with how the web or blogging works. That may be appropriate for an emerging market like India, where many are coming online for the first time by way of mobile devices, having skipped the PC era of internet connectivity.

However, as any old-school blogger would tell you, writing posts simply to cater to whatever is currently trending on Google is something of a traffic hack — and not necessarily how you want to build an audience for your site. Sure, it may bring you clicks as you chase one hot topic after another — but it’s better to develop your own voice and write what you’re passionate about if you really want to develop a relationship with readers.

On the Blog Compass website, screenshots show some of the sample teachings the app will contain. These include courses on things like getting started with SEO and analytics, for example. And, of course, getting your website listed on Google.

The app is simply designed, with navigation via tabs at the bottom of the screen for moving through sections like Home, Activity, Topics and Badges.

It seems the idea is to centralize a lot of the topic research and blog management overhead in a central place — something you can’t necessarily do with WordPress or Blogger’s own mobile apps, where the focus is more on using those apps’ publishing tools.

We’ve reached out to Google to ask for more information about its intentions with Blog Compass, including whether it intends to roll it out to more markets in the future, or if it’s been developed specifically for India.

How to Install and Set Up Jetpack on Your WordPress Site

Jetpack is one of the most popular WordPress plugins. It’s made by Automattic (the same company that’s responsible for WordPress itself), and ports many of WordPress.com’s best features over to the self-hosted WordPress sites. Remember, to use self-hosted WordPress, you’ll need a web hosting provider. We recommend InMotion Hosting (get up to 50% off using this link), which offers six dedicated WordPress plans that’ll suit sites of all sizes. Keep reading, and we’ll explain how to install and set up Jetpack on your WordPress site. What Is Jetpack? In case you’re new to Jetpack, let’s take a moment to list the…

Read the full article: How to Install and Set Up Jetpack on Your WordPress Site

Jetpack is one of the most popular WordPress plugins. It’s made by Automattic (the same company that’s responsible for WordPress itself), and ports many of WordPress.com’s best features over to the self-hosted WordPress sites.

Remember, to use self-hosted WordPress, you’ll need a web hosting provider. We recommend InMotion Hosting (get up to 50% off using this link), which offers six dedicated WordPress plans that’ll suit sites of all sizes.

Keep reading, and we’ll explain how to install and set up Jetpack on your WordPress site.

What Is Jetpack?

In case you’re new to Jetpack, let’s take a moment to list the plugin’s main features. If you already know what it’s capable of, feel free to skip ahead.

Jetpack’s key features are:

  • Site statistics
  • XML sitemaps
  • Automatic sharing to social networks
  • Social sharing buttons on your articles
  • Security enhancements
  • Image CDN

Best of all, Jetpack lets you enable and disable its many features at your discretion. It prevents your site from becoming bloated with unused tools.

How to Install Jetpack on Your WordPress Site

It goes without saying that before you can install Jetpack, you first need to install WordPress. The process for installing WordPress differs between hosting providers. Some use third-party installers like Softaculous; others have simple one-click installers that require minimal user input.

Once you have installed WordPress, log into your site’s dashboard with an admin account. Typically, you can log in at www.[sitename].com/wp-login.php.

After you have successfully logged in, navigate to Plugins > Add New in the panel on the left-hand side of the screen.

Because it is such a popular plugin, you should see Jetpack listed at the top of the page. If you don’t, use the search box in the upper right-hand corner to locate it.

When you eventually find Jetpack’s listing, click on the Install Now button to add it to WordPress. The installation process will take 15-30 seconds to complete.

But wait, you’ve not finished yet—you need to activate the plugin. If you’re still looking at Jetpack’s listing, the Install Now button should have changed to Activate.

If you have already navigated away, go to Plugins > Installed Plugins, find Jetpack on the list, and click on Activate. Again, the process will take a few seconds to complete.

How to Set Up Jetpack on Your WordPress Site

Assuming the activation process was successful, you should be looking at a page which introduces you to all Jetpack’s features.

You can ignore it; head straight to the new Jetpack link at the top of the left-hand panel. Look into these six core areas:

1. Connect Jetpack to WordPress.com

You cannot access any of Jetpack’s features until you connect it to a WordPress.com account.

Click on Set up Jetpack, and you will be automatically redirected to WordPress.com. You can either sign in with an existing account or make a new one. Either way, agree to the connection using the on-screen prompts.

Unfortunately, Jetpack frequently fails to connect to WordPress on the first attempt. It’s been a problem for years. There’s nothing you can do; keep trying until it works.

Finally, you’ll need to choose your payment plan. Scroll down and click on Start with free.

2. Jetpack’s Writing Settings

After you’ve connected Jetpack to WordPress.com, it’s time to start customizing the plugin. Head to Jetpack > Settings to begin.

There are five tabs along the top of the page: Writing, Sharing, Discussion, Traffic, and Security.

The Writing tab contains the options pertaining to creating content. There are a few that are worth paying particular attention to:

  • Global CDN: Jetpack offers a CDN (content delivery network) for images. It makes pages load faster for your visitors. However, some hosting providers offer free access to Cloudflare’s CDN. Generally, it’s not advisable to use two CDNs, so make sure you do your research before enabling this option.
  • Lazy Loading: If you have an image-heavy site with lots of posts on your front page, you might find your site loads slowly. To remedy the problem, enable Lazy Loading. It will only load images as your visitor scrolls down the page. The option is especially effective at speeding up the mobile version of your site.

The Writing tab also lets you turn on the spellchecker, create new posts by email, and write content in plain-text Markdown.

3. Jetpack’s Sharing Settings

The Sharing menu only offers three settings. There’s an option that lets you automatically share your content on social networks, an On/Off toggle that adds sharing buttons to your posts, and a setting that adds a (non-Facebook) “Like” button to each article.

If you want to enable automatic social sharing, slide the toggle into the On position and click Connect your social media accounts. You will be redirected to WordPress.com to make the connections.

4. Jetpack’s Discussion Settings

The Discussion tab lets you determine how people interact with your site.

The most noteworthy setting is the first one—it allows your readers to use their WordPress.com, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ accounts to comment on your articles. Turning this setting on will make your comments feed look richer; a person’s name and a picture will be shown alongside the comments.

Further down, you can also choose to add a subscribe button to your site. Visitors can fill in their email address and receive alerts when new content goes live.

5. Jetpack’s Traffic Settings

The Traffic tab is where you will find your XML sitemaps and site verification codes.

The sitemaps improve your site’s SEO by telling search engines how your site is laid out. The verification codes allow you to add your site to Google’s, Yahoo’s, and Yandex’s webmaster consoles.

If you use another plugin (such as Yoast) to generate sitemaps and verification codes, you can disable the setting in Jetpack. Generating two sitemaps can cause conflicts. For example, Yoast’s Google News sitemap plugin doesn’t use the same XML address as Jetpack.

6. Jetpack’s Security Settings

Jetpack offers brute force protection and a way to monitor your site’s downtime. You can configure both features in the security tab.

The downtime feature will send you an alert the moment your page goes offline, allowing you to quickly remedy the issue before it escalates further.

The brute force protection is a simple On/Off toggle. If it’s malfunctioning, you can manually whitelist IP addresses using the drop-down menu.

Note: With all the Jetpack settings discussed above, be aware that your both your theme and other plugins could override them.

Does Jetpack Slow Down Your Site?

Some reports have claimed Jetpack adversely affects the speed of your site. Webidextrous says the plugin’s external server requests add up to 1.5 seconds to the page loading time. Anecdotal evidence from some users suggests it might be as high as five seconds.

To check whether your page loading time has been affected, use a third-party tool like GTMetrix or Google’s PageSpeed Insights.

And remember, an important part of making sure WordPress runs smoothly is making sure you sign up for a hosting plan that meets your needs. InMotion Hosting (get up to 50% off using this link) offers plans for WordPress users starting at $4.99/mo.

Choosing the right web host and selecting the right plugins are essential steps for every WordPress beginner. If you are planning to start a blog anytime soon, they can make the next steps a lot smoother.

Read the full article: How to Install and Set Up Jetpack on Your WordPress Site

New WordPress policy allows it to shut down blogs of Sandy Hook deniers

WordPress has taken down a handful alt-right blogs, according to several complaints from affected blog owners and readers who claim the sites were removed from WordPress.com, despite not being in violation of the company’s Terms of Service. Some site owners also said they were not notified of the shutdown in advance and have lost their […]

WordPress has taken down a handful alt-right blogs, according to several complaints from affected blog owners and readers who claim the sites were removed from WordPress.com, despite not being in violation of the company’s Terms of Service. Some site owners also said they were not notified of the shutdown in advance and have lost their work. The removals, we’ve learned, are in part due to a new policy WordPress has rolled out that now prohibits blogs from the “malicious publication of unauthorized, identifying images of minors.”

Yes, that’s right: the company has created a new rule to specifically handle the Sandy Hook conspiracists, and boot them from WordPress.com.

While some of the affected sites had already been flagged for other violations, many were hosting Sandy Hook conspiracy theories and other “false flag” content.

In a YouTube video, the host of one site lamented, “They have wiped out 11 years of my fucking life.” He then read through WordPress’s Terms of Service, confused as to how he was in violation.

According to Google’s cache, his site hosted 9/11 “truther” content and claimed that Sandy Hook was a staged event. These are generally repugnant points of view to a large swath of people, but he’s correct in saying they weren’t views that WordPress had prohibited.

The update to WordPress’s policy follows a damning report from The NYT this week that explained on how the world’s largest blogging service has allowed Sandy Hook conspiracy theorists to remain online.

The issue, in part, has to do with how WordPress’s policies were originally written, the article explained.

WordPress policies were designed to be more resistant to the strategic use of copyright claims as a means of getting content removed. Longtime web veterans know they were written this way because they were created at a time when large corporations would wield copyright law – like the DMCA – as a weapon used to force platforms to take down content about their company that they deemed unfavorable.

But in recent years, the permissiveness these policies has also created loopholes for those whose spread disinformation, incite hatred and violence, and post abusive and offensive content to the web.

With little other recourse available to them, some Sandy Hook parents have used copyright law get images of their children removed from the web.

As The NYT explained, a Sandy Hook victim’s father, Leonard Pozner, filed copyright claims with a number of platforms, including WordPress, on images of his son Noah, a 6-year old victim of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Facebook, Amazon and Google complied with those requests. But WordPress responded with form letters that explained why the content could stay online.

The responses, which Mr. Ponzer described to the paper as “automated, very generic,” and “very cold,” said that the conspiracy blog posts represented “fair use” of the material. It defined fair use as anything that included “criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.”

Unbelievably, the letters also warned Mr. Ponzer that it could collect damages from him for knowingly materially misrepresenting copyrights.

Yes, WordPress told the father of a murdered 6-year old that it could seek damages from him if he didn’t stop asking it to remove the stomach-churningly offensive content from those who believe the Sandy Hook shooting never happened, and that parents mourning the loss of their children were actors.

The company told The NYT that language was a part of a predefined statement it used, and was sorry that it did so in this particular situation.

However, it also admitted that the posts in question weren’t in violation of any current WordPress user guidelines or copyright law.

We understand the company has since phoned Mr. Ponzer to apologize directly. It then created a new policy to address the problem.

Its new policy reads:

The policy affects blogs hosted on WordPress.com, not self-hosted blogs using WordPress software.

Combined, WordPress powers 31.6 percent of websites on the web, and has 60% of the CMS market, so this change has a sizable impact on the web as a whole.

The company declined to comment on the new policy.

If the booted bloggers now move to their own self-hosted sites, the responsibility of shutting them down will fall on the web hosting companies. Of course, don’t expect that to happen anytime soon. 

Some of the affected bloggers will probably claim their rights to free speech are being violated. They’re wrong. The First Amendment protects people in the U.S. from the government censoring or punishing you for what you say. It doesn’t protect your Twitter account, Facebook profile, or now, your WordPress.com blog.