2 years ago

A guide to ‘fake news’

More than once every day. That’s how often President Trump publicly calls something “fake”— be it a story, poll, or news organization.

Just this week, Facebook CEO and Founder Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress about, among other things, the proliferation of falsities on his social media platform, including in Alabama’s special election for U.S. Senate last year.

We see the term everywhere, hear it lobbied daily on cable news, and use it ourselves (although perhaps often in jest).  But what really is fake news and how do we spot it?

The term “fake news” is often used to describe three very distinct and separate entities.

First, the reporting of reputable national organizations (think press that have a seat in the White House briefing room, especially those in the first few rows) is often labeled as “fake news”. Although many would argue otherwise, the fact is that outright lies by the news divisions of these organizations are rare.
When reporting failures do occur, news organizations hold their reporters accountable and publicly apologize and correct the story. The suspension of ABC’s Brian Ross after incorrectly reporting that Trump had directed Michael Flynn to contact Russian officials before the 2016 election is one example.

This doesn’t mean, however, that print or televised media are free from falsehoods. They’re not. That’s because newspapers and news channels aren’t just publishing journalism — no, their business requires something else — opinion and commentary, the second bearer of the “fake news” label.

Fox News’ Chief News Anchor Shephard Smith isn’t shy about rebutting the unsubstantiated claims of his primetime opinion counterparts. Why? In his words, “We serve different masters.” In his interview with Time, he goes on to say, “They don’t really have rules on the opinion side … some of our opinion programming is there strictly to be entertaining.”

Nevertheless, false news and misrepresentation is most onerous and rampant, not on television or in newspapers, but on social media, the third and most appropriately labeled agent of “fake news”.

Facebook and its competitors are places where claims, no matter how ridiculous, baseless, and unproven, spread like wildfire. It’s where we see a supposed ‘Friends’ reunion, that President Obama was a Black Panther, that Pope Francis canceled the Bible, and that Snopes, a useful fact-checking website, has ties to George Soros.

Even so, Facebook is a major source of news for many people. Thanks to this and increased cries of “fake news”, I’ve found a few practices helpful in maneuvering this volatile news environment.

As NPR’s Anya Kamenetz suggests, I begin with a gut check. Does what I’m reading affirm my biases, my hopes, and my expectations? If so, I should adopt a healthy level of suspicion.

Second, I automatically reject any news in the form of a meme or screenshot. These easily sharable images often have incendiary captions, outlandish claims, and lack sources. They are designed to go viral—like the emails of yesteryear that promise a free vacation if you simply forward to ten friends—and they are rarely factual. Political memes and screenshots are one way Russians fostered division in 2016, and they are genuinely worthless.

Third, I check the source. Does the website, newspaper, or cable news channel have a history of deceptive practices or falsehoods? Are they well-known and given access to government officials, or do they have a strange web address, an unknown name, or a homepage full of inflammatory headlines?

Fourth, I look to see if other sources are corroborating the report. If not and the news is a credible exclusive, I expect the reporting organization to include their sources in the article.

Fifth, I determine whether the author is a journalist or a commentator. As described earlier, commentators and journalists are very different, as are their standards.

Finally, before reposting or sharing, I consider my own credibility. Do I want to be someone who shares unsubstantiated news and memes, or do I want to ensure its accuracy, and therefore my own?

I’ve found these methods helpful, and I hope you do as well.

Parker Snider is Manager of Policy Relations for the Alabama Policy Institute, an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to strengthening free enterprise, defending limited government, and championing strong families.

9 hours ago

Alabama Power sends hundreds of linemen, support personnel to assist after Tropical Storm Isaias hammered East Coast

Tropical Storm Isaias hit the eastern coast of the United States hard this week, leaving millions of Americans without power while producing high winds, heavy rain and tornadoes.

In the wake of the storm’s wrath, Alabama Power Company on Wednesday morning sent 133 lineworkers and 94 support personnel to New Jersey to assist utility FirstEnergy in its storm response.

A release from the company outlined that Alabama Power upon arrival will support FirstEnergy subsidiary Jersey Central Power and Light, which serves 1.1 million customers in the central and northern parts of the Garden State.

In addition to directly supporting FirstEnergy, Alabama Power advised that it released more than 325 contract lineworkers to assist in storm restoration at various other utilities along the East Coast.

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“Our crews are prepped and ready to offer assistance in the restoration efforts following Tropical Storm Isaias,” stated Kristie Barton, Alabama Power Company’s power delivery services general manager.

“As soon as it is safe to do so, which includes observing all of our COVID-19 safe practices protocol, we’ll be working to restore power as quickly as possible,” she continued.

The company’s help was reportedly coordinated through the mutual assistance program of the Southeastern Electric Exchange, a trade association comprised of several member utilities.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

10 hours ago

Ivey named to leadership of National Governors Association

The National Governors Association (NGA) on Wednesday announced its new executive committee for 2020-2021, with Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) becoming chair of the association that represents the 55 leaders of all American states and territories.

Members of the executive committee were elected during the NGA summer meeting, which was held in a virtual format this year.

Governor Kay Ivey (R-AL) was one of the governors elected to the nine-member executive committee.

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“I’m honored to have been elected to serve on the [NGA] Executive Committee for 2020-21,” Ivey said in a Wednesday tweet. “I look forward to working with my fellow governors to develop initiatives & policies to support our country now & in the future.”

The NGA recently highlighted Alabama’s workforce development efforts under the Ivey administration as a model for other states to emulate.

Ivey assumed the governor’s office on April 10, 2017. In November 2018, she was elected to her first full term as Alabama’s chief executive. That term will expire in January 2023. Ivey could seek reelection in 2022.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

11 hours ago

Mo Brooks: Democrats are banking on creating more moochers in 2020

The latest stimulus bill in Congress is tied up for many reasons, but a major sticking point appears to be the continuation of a $600 a week unemployment booster on top of what states already pay in benefits.

With the current impasse, there is currently no bonus to be given to those who are unemployed.

This is creating a battle between those who want to keep the bonus payment going for the foreseeable future and those who believe that the high payment is keeping people from vigorously re-entering the job market.

The stalemate in Washington, D.C. will eventually break. Some form of sweetener will be included, and the battle for stimulus will move on to the next bill.

U.S. Representative Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) views this battle as part of the larger ideological battle in the United States.

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Brooks appeared on WVNN’s “The Dale Jackson Show” on Wednesday and referred to the Democratic Party as “the moocher party.” He said he believes this disconnect all started in the 1960s when Democrats embraced the idea of the “Great Society.”

Brooks opined, “Democrats have discovered that’s a huge voting block that they get in elections, so one way to win an election is to turn more independent, self-reliant voters into moochers.”

The congressman from Huntsville believes this is nothing new and noted how political it all is.

“Democrats perceive that that’s going to help them tremendously in the 2020 elections just a few months from now,” he advised.

My takeaway:

Brooks, of course, is right.

The argument from the media and their Democrats is always going to be some version of: “We want to give you [this] and they don’t because they want you to die.”

Free healthcare, free childcare, free college education, and it never stops.

Stopping any of this is the equivalent of kicking a baby in the face and taking its food.

Democrats have bought into this idea for years, and in the time of rampant unemployment and a pandemic, they will kick their grievance politics into full gear to gain new power.

The House, Senate and presidency are at risk this year. Republicans can give in and extend the $600 unemployment benefit (they will), and Democrats will just move to the next free item.

In 2020, this strategy might work.

Listen:

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN.

13 hours ago

Dollar General opens 450,000 square foot distribution center in Montgomery

Budget shopping chain Dollar General on Wednesday announced the opening of its large, new cold storage distribution center in Montgomery.

The 450,000 square foot facility is the product of a $26 million investment for the company and will support around 65 new jobs in the River Region.

The Montgomery facility is cold storage, meaning it is designed to store goods that must be kept chilled like milk and deli products.

“Welcome to Montgomery Dollar General, thank you for investing in our state and in our people,” said Governor Kay Ivey on Wednesday during a digital event celebrating the facility being opened.

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“We are incredibly grateful for the tremendous support from both state and local officials who helped make this project happen,” remarked Rod West, Dollar General’s vice president of perishables growth and development.

The low-cost retailer opened its first store in Alabama in 1965 and now has around 800 retail locations in the Yellowhammer State.

“Dollar General is a trusted company with a long history in Alabama,” said Elton Dean, Montgomery County Commission chairman, in a statement on Monday.

“The River Region has a lot to offer, and we are thrilled that this esteemed organization, that does business across the country, recognizes that,” Dean added.

Dollar General also has a traditional distribution center in Bessemer and claims to employ approximately 8,100 Alabamians in total.

Montgomery’s new distribution center is located on Mobile Highway, around 15 minutes southwest of downtown.

“We welcome Dollar General and look forward to years of partnership and progress to come,” commented Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed on Wednesday,

The company says it will support around 1,500 stores in surrounding areas and help spur the “DG Fresh” initiative “which is a strategic multi-phased shift to self-distribution of frozen and refrigerated goods such as dairy, deli and frozen products” according to a release.

“We are confident that Dollar General recognized our strong workforce and business-friendly environment when choosing a location for this facility. We are excited to welcome Dollar General and countless companies to come, to grow in Montgomery,” concluded Arthur DuCote, Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce chairman.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

13 hours ago

Alabama Forestry Association endorses Tommy Tuberville for U.S. Senate

The Alabama Forestry Association (AFA) on Wednesday announced its endorsement of Republican nominee Tommy Tuberville in the Yellowhammer State’s 2020 U.S. Senate race.

Tuberville, after defeating former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in last month’s GOP primary runoff, is set to face U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) in November’s general election. The AFA had endorsed Sessions in the runoff contest.

In a statement, AFA executive vice president Chris Isaacson said, “We are proud to endorse Tommy Tuberville in the United States Senate race. He is a conservative with an impressive list of accomplishments, and we know that he will continue that record in his role as U.S. Senator.”

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“Tommy knows that decisions made in Washington impact families and businesses and will be an effective voice for the people of Alabama,” he concluded.

This comes as another major endorsement for Tuberville from the agribusiness community. The Alabama Farmers Federation endorsed the former Auburn University football coach last year and has been credited as being integral along his path to securing the Republican nomination.

“I am honored to have the endorsement of the Alabama Forestry Association. The AFA is an excellent organization that stands for pro-business policies. Protecting Alabama industry is a key to our state’s success,” Tuberville stated.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn