We live in a society that cannot seem to come to an agreement on what is truth and what are lies. People are seeking out stories that back up their beliefs rather than seek out the truths which may undermine those beliefs. We particularly see this on social media, but there are other sites out there which pass themselves off as local news organization which is really just biased sources designed to play upon the needs of people to have their “truths” backed up with like-minded articles. We asked Dave Boitano, a veteran reporter and creator of Science In View, and Loyd Auerbach, an experienced newscaster, author, and Knowledge & Research Consultant for LexisNexis, to come on the show and discuss the current state of news at the local levels in the US. While the current situation may seem unique to the 21st Century, there are actually parallels to a previous news era over a hundred years ago. Boitano and Auerbach help explain those similarities, and how information professionals, and readers of “news content” can protect themselves from sources which attempt to present information from a biased view.
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Just because you may have access to great information doesn’t mean you can do anything you want with it. A current lawsuit brought by the Center for Workplace (CWC) against the Labor & Employment firm of Littler is an alleged example of this. CWC claims that a couple of lawyers illegally took their Intellectual Property and claimed it as their own. Now there’s an ongoing $1.65 million lawsuit to take it back. Librarians and Information Professionals can use this example to remind others of the limitations of how we can license and use information properly.
Apparently, a reporter may give up their writing, but they won’t give up their podcast. A recent episode of Press Box talks about the Substack model where readers pay directly for content, and writers like Matt Yglesias split from writing for Vox and publish on Substack.
There are a couple of other podcast episodes that we touch on in this episode. The bias of local news isn’t just a right-wing or just a left-wing concept. To learn more on this topic check out The NY Times’ The Daily episode on Brian Timpone’s Metric Media Brand (A Partisan Future for Local News?) and Freakonomics Podcast episode on Tara McGowan’s ACRONYM Digital Media (Why the Left Had to Steal the Right’s Dark-Money Playbook.)
On a side-note, Loyd Auerbach’s book, Near Death, was released recently.
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Please take the time to rate and review us on Apple Podcast. Contact us anytime by tweeting us at @gebauerm or @glambert. Or, you can call The Geek in Review hotline at 713-487-7270 and leave us a message. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, the great music you hear on the podcast is from Jerry David DeCicca.
Marlene Gebauer 0:16
Welcome to the Geek in Review. The podcast focused on innovative and creative ideas in the legal industry. I’m Marlene Gebauer.
Greg Lambert 0:23
And I’m Greg Lambert. Marlene, this week, we’re gonna dive into some issues surrounding the bias and politicization of local news, mainly online news services. And we’re gonna be talking with Loyd Auerbach from LexisNexis and freelance newspaper reporter Dave Boitano. So members of double a double l may recognize the two of them from their webinars on identifying fake news and misinformation slash disinformation. And I’ve known Lloyd for a number of years with his work with LexisNexis. And, of course, the great chocolate tours that he gives it some of the conferences,
Marlene Gebauer 1:01
those tours are amazing. I got to say,
Greg Lambert 1:04
Great. And I just found out today In fact, I ordered it. Loyd’s got a new book out. Wonderful. It’s I think it’s his first fiction book. So he does a lot with the supernatural, which
Marlene Gebauer 1:17
Yeah, we’ll send me the link. So on that note, let’s get to this week’s information, inspiration.
Greg Lambert 1:27
So there’s an interesting lawsuit that I saw this morning that was brought by the center of workplace compliance against the big labor and employment firm Littler this week. So the Center for workplace compliance or CWC claims in its complaint that two littler attorneys had gained access to their intellectual property, which was an online database when littler was representing them. And then they use this access over a 17-month long period to download some 2100 pages of memoranda, checklists, guidance, and other materials from CWC. Yeah.
Marlene Gebauer 2:07
Greg Lambert 2:08
Yeah. And they downloaded apparently, from the computers on the firm network. So CWC actually logged the IP address, according to the complaint. So this is content that CWC has expressly prohibited any law firms from having access to, they wouldn’t even let them be members of this group. So CWC also claimed that the littler attorneys use their content and claimed it as their own and presentations that they gave, CWC is asking that all of their materials be removed from the computer networks. They’re asking for 1.6 5 million, and copyright damages and attorney fees. And so it looks like this is going to be a fight. And for legal information professionals, you know, this is a good opportunity for us to remind attorneys and others not to do anything stupid with content to gain access to. Yeah, well, number one, Don’t do anything stupid.
Marlene Gebauer 3:14
It’s amazing how many questions you get about, well, you know, I can make multiple copies of this and distribute it to all my clients. Right? You know, it’s like, No, no, you can’t do that. You can’t do that. So, you know, Greg, we’re having this wonderful discussion about news on the podcast today. And we completely forgot to cover podcasts as a news source. And I am so mad at myself. Anyway, this podcast episode of the press box touches on that, and there’s a good quote, and I’m paraphrasing it is reporters give up writing, but they never give up their podcast, which I thought was funny. Yeah. The episode in part focuses on Matt Yglesias’s announcement that he will no longer be writing for Vox, but will publish instead in substack, and that others are going there too. Now sub stacks model is that readers can pay you directly to write subscription newsletters. So if we had been more on the ball, we could have discussed the impact of this phenomenon with our guests. And I imagine many of those local professional reporters that we’re going to be talking about, who find themselves out of a job would find this very, very interesting. And I also think a discussion about potential bias and influence as a result of direct payment from fans would also be an interesting topic for discussion. So maybe we can get a postscript from one of our get one or both of our guests for the next show. I also like this podcasts because they do a bit about strain puns. So anyone who knows me knows that I just you know, I can’t walk past a good pun.
Greg Lambert 4:58
That is that is true. If you need verification, I can verify that. And yeah, so this that, that podcast on the ringer. I’m also going to just I’m not going to talk about him here. But I’m going to post a link to a new york times the daily episode and episode of Freakonomics that we kind of reference some of the new sources news in quote sources that we talked about. Let’s jump out of this week’s information inspiration.
Marlene Gebauer 5:32
Many of us who are in the information business have seen issues of disinformation, misinformation, or bias in what may look to many as being legitimate news sources. We asked a couple of experts in the reporting field to come in and talk with us about how the news industry specifically the coverage of local news events, has transformed over the past decade.
Greg Lambert 5:58
The economic downturn of 2008 battered the local newspaper industry and many of the reporters of these local news outlets lost their jobs as a result. While the newspaper and local news outlets are still around, they are a shell of their former selves. Over the past few years, however, there seems to be an increase in local news sites that have sprung up online. And while some of these sites are legitimate news organizations with a focus on local notable events weather and sports, there are sites that look legitimate, but if you scratch below the surface, you’ll find that they’re actually political operations disguised as local news operations.
Marlene Gebauer 6:35
As legal researchers in an age of disinformation, it’s important to understand what is and what is not legitimate reporting. We asked a couple of experts on this topic to join us and discuss what’s going on and how we can better identify authentic news outlets
Greg Lambert 6:50
loaded our back is the knowledge and research consultant with LexisNexis and literally grew up in the news industry with his father dick our back as an executive with NBC Sports. Lloyd is a former columnist with fate magazine, a writer of paranormal handbooks and guides, and if you’re lucky enough to have been at a conference with him, you know, he’s an expert on chocolates and gives these wonderful chocolate tasting presentations. So, Lloyd, thanks for joining us.
Loyd Auerbach 7:18
Thank you. Good to be here.
Marlene Gebauer 7:20
Also joining us is Dave Boitano, writer, and editor with the Bay Area publications in Oakland, California. Dave was a reporter and city editor with the Tri-Valley Herald newspapers for nearly 20 years. Unfortunately, Dave understands firsthand the effects the Great Recession had on the newspaper industry, and how the industry has morphed over the past decade. Dave, we really appreciate you coming on the show and sharing your perspective and knowledge on this topic.
Dave Boitano 7:47
Greg Lambert 7:48
Dave, can you give us just a quick overview of what happened during say the first decade of the 21st century? In regards to local news outlets and reporters?
Dave Boitano 7:58
Yes. news outlets, particularly newspapers really suffered from during the past decade because you had a combination of factors. The first of course was the popularity of the internet, where people were getting their news in smaller doses and much more convenient. And then, of course, many as newspapers began to lose profits from advertising sales, a lot of local ownerships were gobbled up by corporate clients who are really more focused on the bottom line as opposed to covering news itself. Unfortunately, I was one of the victims of that in 2011, I was laid off with about 60 other people from the chain that I work for. And when I left, I actually linked up with three different publications, actually, two websites and publications. I freelanced for some of the papers that I used to edit, I worked for what was called examiner.com, which was focused on entertainment and other types of things. And then I also was part of a great experiment in which we did a local news online paper, essentially, that was a nonprofit. So in other words, we had to keep soliciting funds to keep the newspaper or to keep the website going rather, that’s becoming very common nowadays. A lot of people who’ve left newspapers, voluntarily or involuntarily, are starting up news websites that are essentially like newspapers that never really go to press you find them online. And because it’s very, very hard to keep a flow of profit coming into those websites, a lot of them have had to shift to nonprofit status. So right now for those people who are not fortunate enough to be part of the small staff remain at some of these legacy newspapers. Many of us are basically working for online news entities, or starting our own. In my case, I started my own website where I write about science nowadays, which is so much more fun than writing about crime and politics.
Marlene Gebauer 10:19
So Dave, now, you’ve mentioned news websites, and of course, their social media for news. Is there such a thing anymore as a traditional local news outlet? And if so, what does that look like?
Dave Boitano 10:32
Well, in terms of the legacy, and by legacy, what I’m describing is a newspaper that still exists, the paper that I work for, actually combined several publications into one. And their coverage is really not local, per se, it’s more regional. So they cover larger stories that are of interest to not just people in a particular area, but to people throughout several communities. The local websites are what we really call hyper-local, and they try to pick up all of those types of elements that used to be in a local newspaper, things like city council meetings, school board meetings, local crime, and by that, you know, entries involving burglaries, things like that, and, of course, high school sports. So they try to fill in those gaps that the regional newspapers can’t do because they simply don’t have the staff any longer. And they do a reasonably good job. The only proviso, I’d say to your listeners is that many of them are community-based. And as a result, some of the people who write for them don’t really adhere to the traditional values that we were professional journalists had, which were the two basic directions, which is getting the information correct, and try to be as impartial as possible. Even though you can go on a website, and the story may look general and very inclusive. If you read between the lines, there are some biases that some of these community writers will put in there. And you have to be careful of that.
Loyd Auerbach 12:16
And some folks I can mention, you know, do get their local news through sites like patchy calm and, and places like that, where you have no writers necessarily. You just have people posting, what they have observed their own opinions, some of which seemed to be news, especially for city council meetings and other things. So Oh, yes, that set of things as well, that is kind of endemic across the country?
Dave Boitano 12:39
Well, I was just going to say he’s right, in that sense. They’re really a kind of a hodgepodge of coverage. Gossup can be gossip. Yes, I was on one site where the call clay chord, which is very popular in the Bay Area is so popular, they’re able to actually sell ads and make some money. But they were doing a combination of local reporting and linking to other news sites, and then letting people simply express their opinion, in what or would look like very long letters to the editor. You know, again, those people have their own agendas. And you have to be aware of that. The other thing about local websites now, too, is that they have a hard time staying functional simply because there are costs involved in putting together a website and operating it and also occasionally paying the people who work for you. And if you don’t have revenue coming in, you simply fold. I mean, of the two websites that I went to work for after I got laid off, both are now gone. One because the simply decided they weren’t making enough money, and the other because the editor was simply had to get a better paying job. So that’s a real problem for small news operations nowadays.
Marlene Gebauer 14:04
You know, we were talking here about the loss of local professional journalism, and what kind of impact what is the public losing because believe me, I’ve been on next door. And that’s not news. News. And so, what is the population losing in sort of losing that that professionalism of journalists journalistic delivery?
Dave Boitano 14:34
Well, basically, they’re losing writers who have the skill and the ability to, you know, look at an issue or a neighborhood and try to relate it in an understandable fashion. A lot of these community writers simply don’t have that kind of background. So they can simply either write what they see, or, in some cases, write what they feel Which can really be a problem for trying to be non partial, a trained journalist can look at a situation and be able to relate it not only in terms of the most important facts that you need to get across, and also a sense of, again, Fairness and Accuracy. And with a lot of these community journalists, they simply can’t be accurate because they don’t have the background in some of the areas that they’re covering. Or in some cases, they don’t want to do it. They simply want to, you know, put their opinions out there and get people to read it. I was talking to my wife about this a couple of nights ago. And she said, Well, I think it’s a matter of generational differences, you were trained in a system where you had to be accurate and impartial. And nowadays, most young people want to read things that are opinionated
Loyd Auerbach 15:55
people look at their models, you know, if they’re, if they’re modeling off of social media, and they’re modeling off of what they see on television, especially, they’re going to see people with true biases, and coming at things differently. And with, you know, with heavy opinions that change that even after television back in the 80s, thanks to moving the news departments into entertainment and making them accountable for profits. That happened at the network level in the 80s.
Dave Boitano 16:16
Right. And where this is really very, very apparent is on things like YouTube. And it’s like they’re not, they’re not terribly subtle, so you can really tell, but if you look on YouTube, and there’s a site that says something to the effect of Trump really won the election, and then you look down below, and the person who posted it is called the National Press, you can assume that that’s some kind of political entity or the person who’s created this means try to make it look as if it was the genuine article, the biggest practitioners of this, of course, both, in print and online, is an organization called the epic times, which is owned by some folks in Taiwan. I’m not sure if it’s owned by the Taiwan government or not, but you know, they claim to be covering a wide variety of news. But it’s basically news slanted towards the idea that the communist government in Beijing is evil and out to enslave the world. So those are the kinds of things that are very apparent. What’s not really apparent, though, and when you read some of these local sites is sort of the subtle bias that sometimes comes across. And by that, I mean, I was reading an item on one of the local news sites here a couple of nights ago. And it was about the Berkeley city council actually getting full-time salaries that was approved by the voters. And so in reading the story, the first three-quarters of it is basically about the fact that they’re getting these salaries, and it’s very important that they do and that everybody thinks it’s a great idea. And then at the bottom, there was one last paragraph said, Oh, and other people think that’s not such a great idea in the middle of a pandemic. Now, if I was writing that story, I think I would have put that up a little higher because I know that giving public officials higher salaries, especially at a time when there’s very little tax money coming in is pretty controversial. And I you know, the person who wrote that story didn’t represent the other side, adequately at all, it looked like it was kind of an afterthought. So it’s not just what said, but how it’s played, that contend to have a biasing effect on on the people who are reading it.
Greg Lambert 18:40
Yeah. And we think of, you know, traditional reporters and local writers, professional writers. It’s, it’s kind of funny, because Marlene and I are both graduates from library schools. And over the past 30 years, roughly library schools, journalism schools have kind of merged in some schools where they become these information schools. And so I think there’s been some shifting and just the education of that, and mostly because enrollment is down, because jobs are not there. So when we talk about reporters, how’s the reporter making money these days? And how’s that different than, than, say, 10 years ago?
Dave Boitano 19:22
Well, again, those who were not fortunate enough to have a full time job working for a newspaper or radio station or TV, you really sort of have to make it where you find it. Some of my former colleagues are doing all kinds of things. One of the people I used to work with now is working for a doctor doing documents for him and also doing some some social media for him based on the medical issues on reporter that Dave knows as well as now a private investigator doing we’re actually two of them are now private investment that
Loyd Auerbach 19:58
doesn’t seem to be announced. common thing, I’ve met a number, I’ve actually I actually have met a couple of law librarians who used to be journalists. Yeah.
Marlene Gebauer 20:05
And private investigators. Right? They’re similar skills across those sets.
Loyd Auerbach 20:13
I think that’s true.
Dave Boitano 20:14
Yeah, right. And many, many journalists are doing other kinds of related jobs. What’s really tough though, is trying to go out on your own. I mean, on my website, I spent about 50% of my time trying to, you know, market the website and try to get more readers intellectually involved in creating the copy and the photographs that go along with it. So journalists are doing all kinds of things now that in related fields or trying to remain writers in a very unstable market,
Greg Lambert 20:44
and when when they are writing, are they are they just freelancing?
Dave Boitano 20:47
Yes, pretty much, though. A lot of places now we’re using primarily freelancers, if you’re lucky, and you have a good account, as we call it, you know, you can have a regular series of stories that get published on a weekly or monthly basis. But most publications that I’ve been looking at, tend to hire people based on a single assignment, although actually, the pay is actually getting rather rather good. There has been a sort of a rebirth of freelancing for journalists, because Google and some of the other tech giants have sent some money into the journalistic market to get some online publications off the ground that can actually pay in Oakland, we have something called Oakland side, which is actually put together by a group out of Berkeley with money from Google. And then patches continuing on, but it’s kind of a shadow of its former self, when they first started, they try to get reporters in virtually every community in the United States. But the person who came up with the idea left the company and the new ownership decided that it wasn’t as profitable as they thought. So they cut the staff back severely. So we’re all kind of doing what we can to get by and stay in the the writing game, so to speak, or Dave,
Greg Lambert 22:14
what about the people that just consume their news from social media?
Dave Boitano 22:19
Oh, well, how that plays in is it’s people who consume news nowadays, wanted immediate, and they want to short, they like to go to outlets that reflect who they are and what they believe in. Consequently, it’s really a new kind of environment for someone like me, who was, I guess, something of an anachronism in the sense that I was trained to be impartial, people really want something that’s going to catch their attention and catch their attention frequently. One of the things that I found with my website is that the more often that I connect to one of the stories that I’ve written on Facebook or Twitter, the more views I get. So you’re not really putting the news out at a given time of day, you’d put it up different times, on different days,
Marlene Gebauer 23:12
depending on depending on the viewing population, like you have to be a social, you have to be a social media expert, as well as a journalist.
Dave Boitano 23:19
Yeah, yes. And, yeah, I
Loyd Auerbach 23:21
mean, you put something up on YouTube, and you get 1000 views, you’re more likely to really pop up and become viral or get 10s of thousands of views, versus only having like, you know, 50 or 100 views. So it’s how many people link to it. It’s how much gets passed along. It’s it’s kind of a game of telephone, in some respects of people just continually saying, Hey, this is great and sharing things. And the
Greg Lambert 23:43
way that social media and even Google News and some you know, some of the some of the aggregators, you’re more likely to get a million views, after you’ve gotten 1000 views than you are to get 1000 views after you’ve gotten 100. So it’s, you know, it’s kind of incentive is to kind of go viral, and all the good and bad that comes with that. So
Loyd Auerbach 24:06
you know, and I have to say, as somebody who’s written books, it’s the same thing on Amazon trying to get I run the list, if you have short sales, like a lot of sales really short time, versus, you know, even more sales over a longer period of time.
Dave Boitano 24:19
Well, the public’s online preferences to our real it’s it’s a real crapshoot trying to determine what it is that they’re interested in. Some some of the stuff that I write that I think is wonderful, doesn’t get much in the way of viewership. Other things that may be less important, in my mind, get a lot more views. And so I have to try and adapt myself to that. And that for someone like me is hard because I grew up in a environment where the newspaper had specific readers in a specific area. We knew what it is that they wanted, and we just went ahead and provided it.
Marlene Gebauer 24:58
Yeah, I mean, it used to be more That the journalists would dictate what was sort of coming out in terms of what was important. And now, it seems that it’s flipped and the consumer is is controlling to it to a certain extent, you know, what, what is coming out? Like, you know, you’re seeing something that you think is important. But is that going to is the fact that something that’s less important is more interesting to people? And you get more viewers? Is that going to impact what you print?
Dave Boitano 25:26
Oh, yes, in some ways, the internet is kind of the way newspapers were at the turn of the century, in the sense that the news now has to be written to attract, you know, viewers and readers, as opposed to, you know, putting out a given product that was valid in the minds of the editors and writers who produced this. Now, it’s a matter of, as you say, of trying to meet the demands of the public in a sort of amusing way, for lack of a better word.
Marlene Gebauer 25:58
Like, like what? Yeah,
Loyd Auerbach 26:00
yeah. And, and there’s an element of, you know, all these online platforms, they’re getting analytics, they’re getting information they’re getting well, and that helps form what goes next. Whether it’s created by bots, or by living people, there’s still a process by which you can figure out what’s going to get the most attention. And that may not be what’s actually happening.
Dave Boitano 26:21
I could certainly use that I hope those people could send me that information. So I get for example, one of the things I write about is astronomy. And, you know, I found that when I wrote about phases of the moon and things like that people weren’t terribly interested. But if I did something, for example, on UFOs, taking a clue from Lloyd, yes, I get a lot of views, probably
Loyd Auerbach 26:49
asteroid flybys to probably get a lot more destroyed. flybys are good. Yeah.
Greg Lambert 26:53
Well, Lloyd, I wanted to talk with you about what a lot of us have seen over the years, and that’s the politicization of news. Some of us we know the the big names, we know Fox News, we know one American news, even even MSNBC, and other outlets that have a specific political slant on how they approach the news. But most of us aren’t familiar with some other outlets out there, especially when it comes to online and local news. And I’ve read where there’s metric media on the right or acronym, digital media platforms on the left, which actually produce in can’t see it, but I’m doing quotes around news articles here, and local news websites, but they’re actually controlled by, you know, PACs, political organizations, with an agenda to promote a certain philosophy. So what are you seeing on the local news front, when it comes to organization setting up these websites, and publishing local news articles? And, you know, I would say even aggregators like Google News, maybe even Lexus news desk. Do you look for those? Do you exclude those? Do you include those? What? What do you do with those?
Loyd Auerbach 28:15
Well, I mean, technically, they’re news with a slant. You know, they kind of remind me a lot of what I’ve seen is like the old advertiser advertorials, where a company will pay for an article to go in and it looks like a real editorial. And it’s sponsored by, you know, Kleenex, or somebody. Yeah, and even if we go back, as I mentioned earlier, in the 80s, when NBC News and ABC News became part of the entertainment divisions of the network’s and they then had the advertisers dictating sometimes what would be some of the focus of some of the news. I know my dad, in the early 90s, I was asked to put together a proposal for an environmental news show. And we actually spent a lot of time I spent time with him actually explaining what Lexus could give him in terms of news. And he ended up turning it down, because the main sponsor that it prompted this was Chevron and Chevron in their contracts. And you can’t do any stories about Chevron except for positive ones. And he basically said, while that I’m not doing the show, it never came about nobody else would do it either. But it’s that kind of thing that we’re now seeing with politics, where the large dollar amounts that are coming into politics are actually pouring in on the local level to win the local races as well as the National races. And one way to do that is to convince the public on a local level, to focus on that more national stories through the slants that they’re actually doing. I think the the term is pink slime journalism as opposed to yellow. That’s what I was reading about earlier. So it’s, it’s this you have to kind of look past what the headlines are like he went with a lot of newspapers. I grew up in the New York area, we have the New York Times and The Daily News and the New York Post. So, you know, we had one that was really good one that was pretty good, and one that was like the Enquirer, which still exists, and they still exist. So you just have to take, you have to look past that new stuff. I will say that that newsdesk, which does grab news from over 800,000, blogs and 10s of thousands of new sites. And a lot of other places, there are sites that are covered, for reasons that I’ll get to here in a second, that are questionable. And mostly, the reason that they’re covered is because clients have new clients of Lexus, the corporations, and they want to see where their names are being mentioned. They want to see where their products, and that, of course generates legal issues, as well. So the law firms want to see that stuff, too. But then you have, and this actually came up not too long ago is with a firm where somebody pointed out a website that looked like a new site. And it covered local issues, and national issues. And it was a veteran’s look like a official veterans government site. It was actually a white supremacist site. If you get past the first page into any of the articles passed the initial writeups, it was really clear what their, their mission was. And I think that’s what you have to read the whole, you got to kind of go down the rabbit hole, at least the first step to see where things are.
Marlene Gebauer 31:26
So I mean, we’re talking about, you know, you have some of these sites like that, that you mentioned, that are, you know, have, you know, have biases, or maybe a kind of even out now false to begin with, until you dig a little deeper. So, as a as a researcher, you know, even as a news consumer, sort of what’s a good way of basically getting a well rounded, you know, well rounded news for yourself,
Loyd Auerbach 31:54
I think you have to look at more than one source, that’s First of all, and definitely look into the articles themselves. As much as possible, I think it’s really important to look at who wrote the articles. But you know, even the bias there, there’s a lot of fake names out there. It’s one of the things I was when this came up, this topic came up, I started doing some research myself, of course, I did it on on Lexis, on the news there. And some of these places like metric and some of the other ones seem to have fake names, because they’re originally written by originally, they were articles written by people in the Philippines or in Taiwan for like the epic times, and so on. So you have have to look at who these people are, you have to look at the, at the articles themselves and read a few articles. And you’ll kind of get a feel for that particular publications, especially if you’re looking at or that site, looking at a couple over time, based on the local area, the local covers that you’re dealing with. But looking at multiple sites is really important. I mean, it’s so people who just watch Fox News, or just watch msnbc get one viewpoint. And we’ve seen the results of that, unfortunately. So you know, I hate to say it, if you’re watching TV, flip the channels, you’re listening to radio, flip this the stations, if you’re watching, if you’re listening to podcasts, listen to many of them. If you’re going to websites, local websites, look at many of them. And I think that’s one way to really get a feel for what you’re actually getting.
Dave Boitano 33:16
That, of course, is what journalists been doing for a long time, make money, when a professional journalist writes a story, you don’t write it based on just one source, you obviously try to get as many sources as you can to try and put together a comprehensive and balanced piece. It’s interesting that you should mention Chevron because Chevron has its own site that supposedly covers the Richmond area. But it’s all done by Chevron staff.
Loyd Auerbach 33:42
Yeah. I mean, there’s court planning corporate news sites out there, and clearly they’re biased.
Dave Boitano 33:46
Yes, very much. So
Greg Lambert 33:49
is the same thing. Are you hearing the same thing happening with with legitimate freelancers? I know that both metric media and acronym pay freelancers and basically outline the story that they’re asked to write? Oh, yes. And then some of them going back to, you know, the pay to play that, you know, there are politicians that have been able to get the story before it’s published, and suggest that there be you know, certain things taken out or certain things put in to help them look better. And it just so happens that the same politicians have paid these organizations thousands of dollars as a reporter, how do you fight against that? I mean, you still want to you still want to write you still want to get paid? Is there a way to kind of balance this?
Dave Boitano 34:41
Well, it depends entirely upon, you know, your set of values. Again, I’m an old dog in the sense that I wouldn’t do that. If I was going to write something on behalf of a particular organization, you know, I would probably put it in the form of a press release or something like that. But if I I was told that I had to write specific and make specific points, I just wouldn’t do it, especially if I if I didn’t believe in the organization. What’s interesting is that when you’re a freelancer, and you go on to sites, including, you know, some of the employment sites, sometimes the job descriptions will actually say that, you know, must be interested in promoting the beef industry, or must be interested in doing this or that. And as a reporter, you really have to make that decision, you have to make the judgement as does this offend your, you know, sense of values. And a lot of people are really torn by that. Although, actually, a lot of times the organizations that want you to write really biased information, don’t pay that, well. Sometimes it’s an easy decision. But, you know, there are others as well. I mean, I know people who have taken jobs that are similar to the people in that movie called thank you for smoking, where they’re actually working for, you know, cigarette companies and arms dealers, and all kinds of things like that. And obviously, they felt that that wasn’t too much of a compromise to there.
Marlene Gebauer 36:17
Yeah, I think that’s commercial I call that commercial writing or corporate writing. I don’t call I don’t I don’t call that. I don’t call. Maybe it maybe I’m old school. I don’t know. But I know what you’re saying. I know what you’re saying.
Loyd Auerbach 36:30
Public Relations or advertising is what it is.
Marlene Gebauer 36:33
Dave Boitano 36:34
Yes. The more interesting thing, though, is just in terms of the the news industry itself online, there are some interesting statistics. And one is that there are the last time we looked there are more than 1000 news websites around the country online. And of those about 100 or so are what are called legacy websites, which are the websites that are the arm of legitimate publication like San Francisco Chronicle with the New York Times, those websites, those legacy websites actually end up getting more than 70% of the traffic. So the other 30% is being divided up by all of these other sites, and all of the freelancers like myself are trying to get out there and keep writing and make a buck while you’re doing it. But for the most part, legitimate news is still there. But you have to make make certain that you get it from a time honored source. Right? And not the New York Daily News.
Greg Lambert 37:39
And I think one of the things that that we may not have, oh, I think we’ve may have glossed over a little bit here is that, yeah, those legacy sites may be getting the click throughs to get to the news. But a lot of times, it’s more the headline is all that really matters. And those are the ones that are getting picked up in the in the social media and getting forwarded. And it doesn’t really require the person to click through and actually read anything. They’ve already solidified their opinion based on you know, the 15 words that they see on the on the social media site. So
Marlene Gebauer 38:18
yeah, and of course, the headline is, is the thing that it particulars isn’t it needs to grab your attention. So you know it that the story itself might not be quite as quite as exciting as the headline, I was gonna I was gonna I was thinking when you were talking about it’s like we’ve, we’ve lost the long form. Yeah,
Dave Boitano 38:36
well, and it’s also the subject that people are interested in. I mean, if I got rid of my site and created a site about the Kardashian family, I probably be making a lot more money than I am now. I mean, one of the people that I used to work with, is still employed at the newspaper. And instead of doing feature stories or news, she simply does rewrites of gossip that comes off the wire about all of the ALA’s celebrities in Hollywood and all of the other celebrities that are, you know, in the minds of the public. And she just simply does rewrites and talks about what happened to them on a given day, which is not news.
Greg Lambert 39:16
Lloyd and Dave, you guys have presented on the rational way of objectively looking at news identifying what’s real, what is and what what to look out for, if you had just a few, you know, high level items that as researchers as reporters, things to be aware of what what are some of the things that you you tell your audiences,
Loyd Auerbach 39:41
so one of them is Don’t, don’t go to one single source, unless you have already vetted that source, compare the source against others, and look for what’s underneath that source. As an example, Wikipedia. Some stuff on Wikipedia is great. Most of it is questionable, but if you look at the actual articles and journals and everything else that they’re putting in the bibliography, if you go there, you’ll know what’s accurate and what’s not very easily. So kind of look behind that, to some extent, you got to Liezel a common sense, you definitely have to read past the headline, unfortunately, just know that if you have a knee jerk reaction to something positive or negative, getting past that reaction is what you need to do to go any further for that. And then just simply look for bias, even if it is something you agree with, there’s going to be some bias there. And Dave, and
Dave Boitano 40:37
like, Lloyd says, you simply need to use your head, if something that you’re reading sounds outrageous, or extreme in some manner, you definitely need to, as he says, Look to another source to see if it’s genuine. Chances are, it’s not genuine, because it’s simply being created to get views or click throughs, or whatever you call them. So if it seems unusual, or particularly outrageous or designed to get an emotional rise out of you, chances are it’s not true. Yeah, I mean, that’s that’s it.
Loyd Auerbach 41:14
If it’s something that is just this incredible story, but you can’t find it anywhere else, there’s a good chance that it’s not real.
Greg Lambert 41:23
Well, Dave Boitano and Lloyd, our back. I really appreciate you guys coming on and having this conversation. This has been fun.
Marlene Gebauer 41:30
Yes, thank you guys.
Dave Boitano 41:31
Thank you so much for having me. It’s really been great.
Loyd Auerbach 41:33
Greg Lambert 41:38
Marlene, I found that Dave Boitano story about how today’s online news is very similar to the way newspapers were run in the early early 20th century. You know, I thought that was pretty on point, the idea of playing on the biases and, or personal beliefs of your readership, to support those biases and make them stronger. it you know, that may be a great business strategy to make money or, or to promote a political agenda. But just like with those newspapers over 100 years ago, it’s just not good for society. We have these information bubbles that that we live in, that are really easy to slip into. But once you’re there, they’re really hard to get out of, and I think these types of news sources, again, with quotes around it, just make it even that much more difficult.
Marlene Gebauer 42:28
Yeah, it was a really good reminder that, you know, our idea of unbiased journalism. And you know, just the facts is not really that old phenomenon, you know, we really had a certain section of time where that was, that was the approach that the journalists took, but you know, it wasn’t always that way. And it seems that we’re sort of moving. We’re moving in the direction of, you know, the early 20th century, where, you know, there was a lot of yellow journalism,
Greg Lambert 43:01
Marlene Gebauer 43:03
slime journalism? Yeah.
Greg Lambert 43:05
Well, you know, one of the things that I worry about is that, you know, many of us in the information profession, you know, we have to dive into these resources. And it can be quite a challenge not to get sucked in, if you’re not constantly vigilant on this. So again, I think it it’s like a person that only watches one news source, you have to be careful not to not to let that but you know, one of the problems is these sites are getting more and more creative on how they present themselves. And many look like legitimate news sources, you know, they get picked up by the aggregators, which may unintentionally give them some additional credibility. So it makes it even that much harder to distinguish very easily between what’s a legitimate site, and what’s a site that may be a pay to play or politically biased or socially biased site. And, of course, as you know, as Lloyd our back mentioned, if you go down that and some of these rabbit holes on these sites, there’s an ugliness that can lure some people in who want certain things to be true, regardless if they are or if they’re not. And I would say that’s probably one of the biggest flaws currently in the United States present time, is that we just can’t seem to agree on what the truth is. And you know, especially if that truth runs counter to our own personal needs and beliefs,
Marlene Gebauer 44:29
yeah, in addition to having to go to multiple sources and sort of check out and do all you know, a whole bunch of fact checking which I know is necessary and certainly sort of in our types of jobs. We you know, we do that as a regular course, but, you know, is the normal reader going to be taking the time to do all of that no. And you know, I think that’s that’s a huge concern and also that you know, we we’ve narrowed our our lines, have access to information. So, you know, we talked about how people are getting their access through social media. And you know, and even through like entertainment sources that very much narrows what you’re seeing, because you know, you’re only subscribing to social. So certain social media, there’s algorithms that basically dictate what you see. And you’re not really even realizing it, but it’s trying to you know, and it’s not necessarily something that there’s there’s malicious intent, I mean, just trying to tailor to what it thinks you want to see. But that goes right against the having to see a broader picture in terms of what what news is in order to determine you know what the truth is.
Greg Lambert 45:42
I agree that that’s a downer.
Marlene Gebauer 45:49
Well, thanks again today, Boitano and Lloyd, our back for joining us today. Before we go, we want to remind listeners to take the time to subscribe on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts, rate and review us as well. If you have comments about today’s show, or suggestions for a future show, you can reach us on Twitter at @gebauerm or @glambert or you can call the geek review hotline at 713-487-7270 or email us at email@example.com and as always used to be here, Jerry David decicco Thanks, Jerry. Thanks, Jerry.
Greg Lambert 46:26
All right, Marlene. Happy Thanksgiving!
Marlene Gebauer 46:30
Yes, you too and happy news reading.