Section 230 doesn’t have many admirers in Washington, D.C., and the need to change it may be one of the few things President Biden and former President Trump agree on—albeit for very different reasons.
Conspiracy theories are nothing new. The oldest ones date back to Roman times and have circulated in varying degrees ever since. From the belief that the Earth is flat or that the CIA assassinated JFK to the “Big Lie” that the 2020 election was rigged, these theories appeal to people looking for some semblance of order in our turbulent world. Apparently, there’s quite a few of these folks. According to two University of Chicago researchers, half of all Americans believe in at least one conspiracy theory.
The attack on the Capitol is evidence that fake news is toxic to our democracy and has very real, even deadly, consequences.
So honored to co-host the AFC-USA 2020 Scholarship and Honorary Awards Ceremony and to share my thoughts on the challenges facing the news industry in the era of COVID-19.
Humans are storytellers. We like narratives that take the random chaos of life and put it into a coherent structure. The alternative is too difficult to live with: a world where nothing adds up to anything, nothing results from anything else, and people are just free-floating organisms in a sea of other organisms with nothing to connect them.
Journalistic writing is direct, concise and precise. As “Elements of Style” says: “A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.”
Reporters are intrinsically skeptical of all sources–eyewitnesses included—for good reason. At the same time, they are also hugely dependent on sources for their reporting and dare I say, their very livelihood.
Remember, not everything is Google-able, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth verifying. Fact-checkers keep an arsenal of resources in their tool belts: a telephone, publication databases and a box of colored pencils.
Loaded language should come with the warning, “Handle with Care.” This term refers to words and phrases that induce a strong emotional response and carry a positive or negative connotation beyond their literal meaning.
To answer that question, you have to go back to 1996 and what’s known as the “26 words that created the internet.”