On Tuesday, the PBS NewsHour featured a report on teaching public school students to spot fake news on the internet. One of the articles that PBS gave as an example was a 2013 Breitbart article about religious freedom in the military.
Prior to the airing of the report, anchor Judy Woodruff opened by stating “And to be clear, we're referring to false information disguised as a legitimate news story. Not reporting that people dislike for political reasons and label 'fake news.'” Unfortunately, that is not what occurred.
When the reporter, Kavitha Cardoza, went on to give examples of fake news there was a Breitbart article mixed in with actual fake news. As the image of the Breitbart article was flashed across the screen, Cardoza went on to say “Recognizing bias in news stories is one form of "media literacy." Spotting when the news is entirely fabricated -- like these stories -- is something else entirely. Often these stories are designed to look as if they come from legitimate news organizations, and are meant to be easily shared on social media, resulting in confusion over what's real.”
The article, titled “Pentagon May Court Martial Soldiers Who Share Christian Faith” was written in 2013, and was about religious liberty concerns at the Department of Defense during the Obama Administration. The article had followed reports from the Family Research Council and Fox News.
The article was penned by Ken Klukowski, who was at the time a senior fellow at the Family Research Council for religious liberty. To call Breitbart a fake news site based on some of its more outrageous articles is one thing, but to insinuate Klukowski, a man who's worked at the American Civil Rights Union as a Senior Legal Analyst, is outrageous.
Below is the transcript of the report:
Judy Woodruff (Anchor): But first, helping children distinguish between false information and fact-based news. It's a distinction increasingly a problem for adults. And to be clear, we're referring to false information disguised as a legitimate news story. Not reporting that people dislike for political reasons and label "Fake news". In Washington state, educators and media literacy advocates have joined together with legislators to address the problem. Special correspondent kavitha Cardoza with our partner "Education week" traveled there recently, part of our weekly series, "Making the grade."
Niamh O'Connell (Teacher): This was the front page of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Kavitha Cardoza (Reporter): Niamh O'Connell's third-grade history class at bertschi school is analyzing old news stories, looking for evidence of bias.
Fred Coddon (Student): People, if they don't know how to analyze it will just say "Oh wow, that's true!"
Cardoza: Fred Coddon looks at the choice of words used in a story about Japanese internment camps during World War II.
Coddon: Notice how they're wording it like "Japanese" instead of "Japanese-Americans?"
O'Connell: What was the purpose of that?
Coddon: The purpose was to say, "We're not imprisoning 'American citizens', or as they put it 'we're not evacuating American citizens, we're evacuating Japanese.'"
O'Connell: And why do they use the word "Evacuate?"
Cardoza: Another student also notices the language.
Student 1: I saw some fake advertising for the Japanese internment camps. They said they were "Assembly Centers."
Cardoza: So they made it seem really cool and actually it wasn't?
Student 1: Yeah.
Cardoza: O'Connell uses examples from the past so these kids can become smarter about media messages in the present. Even though they're only eight years old.
Student 2: I want to learn how to like analyze it myself and have my own opinion.
O'Connell: They soak up everything around them. I think it's important for kids to be able to control the interpretations that they hear and see every day instead of the interpretations maybe controlling them.
Cardoza: Recognizing bias in news stories is one form of "Media literacy."[shows Breitbart article] Spotting when the news is entirely fabricated-- like these stories-- is something else entirely. Often these stories are designed to look as if they come from legitimate news organizations, and are meant to be easily shared on social media, resulting in confusion over what's real. During the recent election season, there have been reports of a concerted effort to spread fake news, in a bid to influence public opinion. A recent Stanford University study of almost 8,000 students showed they were "Easily duped" online. Researchers found "Overall, young people's ability to reason about the information on the internet can be summed up in one word: Bleak."