[Air-L] breaking news and fake news - the wash post's russian power grid hackers story

kalev leetaru kalev.leetaru5 at gmail.com
Mon Jan 2 08:20:10 PST 2017

To add a bit of context to this. The Post finally provided comment to me
defending their article, saying that they had contacted the utility prior
to publication but did not hear back, that the very first version of the
article noted this, and that they updated the story immediately upon the
utility's press release refuting the Post's story.

However, I spoke with the utility itself this morning who informed me that
the very first contact of the Post to the utility was 10 minutes *AFTER*
publication of the article. You read that right - the Post made no attempt
of any kind to contact the utility until AFTER publication (the original
article noted there were only two possible utilities that could have been
hacked and mentioned its name, so it wasn't like the Post didn't know which
utilities it could be or that there were 100's of possibility utilities).
Typically journalism norms teach you to reach out for comment *prior* to
publication, not after publication.

Moreover, the Post claimed that the very first version of the article
stated that the utilities had been contacted for comment, yet the Internet
Archive's Wayback Machine shows that this statement was not added until an
hour later (after which the utilities actually had been contacted). The
Archive also shows that the story was not updated until more than an hour
after the utility issued its statement refuting the Post's story, rather
than immediately, as the Post claimed.

While I'm sure there are journalists who believe it is completely fine to
publish a story and then after publication go back later and contact the
parties involved and ask for comment, that is one of the things that leads
to false and misleading stories propagating.

For those on this list interested in web archiving, I thought it was also
quite fascinating that the Post told me that they change article headlines
but do not archive any of those historical headlines when changing them -
they simply wipe over the previous version and have no internal records or
archives of the past versions. Quite fascinating and raises the question of
what kind of archiving major newspapers do for their online platforms or if
IA is really one of the only archives of online news.

You can see more detail in my new piece out this morning:



On Mon, Jan 2, 2017 at 9:07 AM, Richard Forno <rforno at infowarrior.org>

> > On Jan 1, 2017, at 17:38, Yosem Companys <companys at stanford.edu> wrote:
> > To win in this hyper-competitive market, you have to be the first to
> > report on the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine and accuse the Spaniards for
> > doing it.
> <decaffeinated rant>
> Yes, that's a sad but decades-old consequence of the need to fill up a
> 24/7 television 'news' cycle.  First to report something (anything!) and be
> half-right is better than being third to report with total accuracy.  If
> there's not enough hard news, fill in opinion that can masquerade as news
> as well  (some do it better & more integrated than others.)  It's all about
> attracting viewers/readers/advertisers and $$$$ --- a practice which only
> muddies the information environment further and does not provide a useful
> public service or foster an informed citizenry.
> As a result there's far too much noise and gaffleblabble and not enough
> serious analysis. 'News' on (American) TV, in nearly every case, has become
> infotainment at best and tasty-bite-sized morsels of barely-useful pablum
> at worst   Apart from scanning the headlines to find out generally what's
> going on in the world, most news (at least in the US) is a bleepin' farce.
>  Politcians exploit this regularly, improved upon it in 2016, and I'm sure
> will have it perfected into a fine art form over the next 4 years.  Throw
> in the "fake news" and "post-factual" considerations/accusations of the
> present day, and the public news-o-sphere becomes a greater cesspool and
> further devoid of utility as a tool to inform the citizenry than it already
> is.  (And let's not forget the need to develop individual qualities like
> critical thinking, knowledge of history, etc, etc. too)
> There is also the problem of large media entities practicing 'access
> journalism' by simply functioning as stegranographers for government PR
> talking points -- ie they prefer to maintain cozy access and "exclusives"
> with the sources of power than risk being independent-minded and
> potentially banished to a less-intimate circle of access.  (I see this all
> the time on stuff here in DC, including on cyber.)  This is tied, I think,
> to what I said above about the business needs for a constant supply of hot
> news streams.   (Which, come to think of it ... if a single tweetstream can
> drive a 24-hr news cycle, we are in a world of hurt.)
> I daresay the US media would be wise to read & heed Rosen's advice from
> last week, but sadly I doubt they will ...
> http://pressthink.org/2016/12/winter-coming-prospects-
> american-press-trump/ and http://pressthink.org/2016/12/
> prospects-american-press-trump-part-two/
> ... although at least some sources are starting to politely push back and
> call shenannigans on blatantly false statements made by politicians even
> hours apart, and citing side-by-side evidence.  So there's *some* shift in
> coverage starting, but much more needs to take place.  But that will only
> go so far these days -- fact-checking is meaningless if everyone feels
> entitled to their own facts.  ;/
> (Disclosure:  In the US if I want US-produced TV news, it's PBS Newshour,
> which doesn't go for sensationalism or offer on-screen octoboxes
> facilitating shouting matches.  For global TV news, I'll go for BBC,
> France24, or al-Jaz.)
> </rant>
> That said ... to change the subject completely, happy new year, AORistas!
> - rick

More information about the Air-L mailing list