Yesterday, I received an email from a Boston Globe reporter asking me to comment on a Google document written by Melissa Zimdars, an assistant professor of communication & media at Merrimack College.
...about a new listing of "False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and Satirical “News” Sources" by a professor at Merrimack College. Your site is on the list and I'd like to get your reaction to that. Please me ASAP. Thanks.
I was shocked at first and then really pissed off. I asked the Globe journalist by what methodology the author of the 'list,' used to determine if a website was fake, false, and misleading. I was told to speak with journalist since she authored the document.
Do you see the problem here? Media outlets are taking that document on its face, as if it was sacrosanct.
The author writes an add-on note that says:
Not all of these sources are always or inherently problematic, neither are all of them fake or false, but I’m including them here because they should be considered in conjunction with other news/info sources due to their tendency to rely on clickbait headlines or descriptions etc.
Think Progress and Raw Story were also on the list. What garbage.
First it was a list of fake and false websites, now there's a plethora of subcategories. I have a strict policy on C&L that is followed most of the time. No profanity allowed. But Professor Zimdars, you've made me almost break it.
PFS has won many online awards, including Time Magazine's Top 25 Blogs of the Year and a Webbie in 2008 for best political blog.
C&L has always had a stellar reputation when covering the news, even if you disagreed with our opinions. Professor Zimdars' list pukes all over a reputation I've cultivated for 12 years now.
This is how the lies and smears begin -- with a crude, subjective list. And then they go viral.
On cue, Motherboard writes: This List of Fake News Websites Proliferating on Facebook Is Staggering
↓ Story continues below ↓
The proliferation of fake news across the internet, especially on Facebook, has become one of the major talking points in the wake of the shocking result of the 2016 US presidential election (with some arguing fake news helped elect President Donald Trump). Regardless, it seems to be getting harder and harder to discern the difference between trustworthy journalism and fake content created for the sake of a click—but it’s not at all impossible.
Melissa Zimdars, an assistant professor of communication & media at Merrimack College, started a list of websites known to have published articles with false information as a way to help her students learn about journalism and media literacy. Thanks to the magic of Google Documents, it's now accessible to anyone with an internet connection. Read the entire public document here (via Gennady Kolker).
Hey Motherboard, did you bother examining the list to see if you recognized any names? What about checking the methodology behind the choices?
NY Mag's Madison Malone Kircher writes: An Extremely Helpful List of Fake and Misleading News Sites to Watch Out For
See how this works?
Hey, I think it's great to put together a list of fake news websites and she has uncovered many, but if you are going to undertake such a task, at least take the time to verify all those sites that made your cut. Have some objective criteria and a scientific basis for making those calls.
Now Brian Feldman at NY Mag created a Chrome extension to flag all the sites on the list. Even though we're no longer on her list we're still included on his extension. "Here’s a Chrome Extension That Will Flag Fake-News Sites for You"
I can't tell you how furious I am.
I sent out some tweets demanding retractions.
After these tweets, I received an update. For now, it appears we are off Zimdars' list, temporarily. That needs to be made permanent.
She's updated her Google document again, changing her thesis in the process
False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and Satirical “News” Sources
Below is a list of fake, false, regularly misleading, questionable, and/or “news” organizations, and organizations that regularly use clickbait-y headlines and descriptions, that are commonly shared on and other social media sites. Many of these websites rely on “outrage” by using distorted headlines and decontextualized or dubious information in order to generate likes, shares, and profits.
False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and/or Satirical “News”
SourcesDisclaimer: All of the contents in this document are the opinion of the author and are for educational purposes only.
So now her list is just an opinion, used for educational purposes? What? But before we screamed, this document was the definitive list of fakes, shared widely on Facebook, who is in the process of (finally) deciding they should consider how their promotion of fake news sites impacted the election.
It's too late to revise it as an opinion, Professor Zimdars.
An apology and an immediate retraction from the professor and from the websites that used her "opinions" to smear C&L is due. Immediately.