My short bio: My name is Josh Hawthorne and I'm an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Monmouth College. I've published recently on digital propaganda efforts in the U.S. and internationally, and I've taught college level classes on Mass Media, Fake News, and Public Relations. Ask me anything about digital propaganda, fake news, media, or anything else I guess.

My Proof: First off, here's a post from Monmouth College's Communication Studies Department announcing this AMA by me.

Here is a link to some of my recent work with colleagues on digital propaganda.

Here is a link to my website that contains links to many of my other publications, a link to my Google scholar page, and a link to my faculty bio page on the Monmouth College website.

The Kicker: Tomorrow we are crowdfunding the launch of the Digital Propaganda Research Center at Monmouth College. I hope you can donate, even a small amount, to help further our research on this topic!

With this project we will be building the capacity to conduct data science based analyses of social media and other digital content. We are specifically concerned with understanding how propaganda spreads through digital information environments. Several student research projects are also being directly funded through this effort.

Here is a video summarizing the project!

Now AMA! I'll be back around in the morning to start answering questions!

Edits: Good morning! I'll be answering questions all day between my classes. Keep the questions coming!

We've raised over $5,700 so far today for the Digital Propaganda Research Center! Each donation has a matching donor, so a $5 donation is functions as a $10 donation. Click here to support out work on propaganda and fake news!

Comments: 282 • Responses: 44  • Date: 

introverted36554 karma

How do you avoid research bias? How can you keep your personal beliefs separate from the actual results?

josh_hawthorne68 karma

Transparency and showing my work.

I try to be reflective and open about my biases in my research and in the classroom. Most peer-reviewed academic journals (where I publish) require you to let people know if you have received funding to complete the research in order to publish.

I'm open with my data, code/models, and results. If someone wants to see them I'm happy to share so they can independently verify results.

I often find myself arguing that everyone has their own biases and that it is impossible to completely separate ourselves from our beliefs. Therefore, transparency and showing your work become necessary practices to help minimize bias in results.

obi-wan-kenokie42 karma

Is it possible (legally, technologically, ethically) to define news? Before the 24 hr news cycle all news was more or less the same no matter the source. It seemed verifiable if less prolific. Now there is so much information that it's hard to tell news from opinion. Throw in bad actors and it's impossible in any bubble. So could a body exist that proactively defined news?

josh_hawthorne31 karma

It would certainly be possible to create a definition of news, but as with any definition there would always be cases of stories that are useful but that we don't characterize as news. Therefore, strict definitions may not produce the best outcomes for the public.

Professional societies for journalists exist. I could imagine that they have some sort of criteria for what news is and what it is not. This could be a body that proactively defines news.

You are totally right that historically the news was more uniform and that the explosion of content has made it difficult to tell between news and opinion.

Given the current levels of partisanship in the US think that any effort to classify and define news result in claims of partisanship, censorship, and increasing our polarization problems.

In some ways, President Trump is attempting to do this by calling some news sources (those mostly critical of his administration) as "fake news."

mrsmagiclee3 karma

I write news for a local radio station and what we consider "news" is what we think our demographic would want to know about. be that political, entertainment, health, food/beer or finance. Because it's radio , we have the luxury in keeping our stories short. Not much time for anything other than the facts. However we do get to use fluctuation as a way to jab at something.

requisitename6 karma

Do you believe it's part of your job "to jab at something?" Maybe you should just give the facts and let the people "jab at something" if they feel it's warranted.

mrsmagiclee2 karma

when I say "jab" here is an example. Our Gov's nephew has been arrested a few times. So when he's in the news for a DWI or tax fraud, I say "again" in a tone that's meant to feel like you're in on a joke.

Poondoggie9 karma

Why on earth are the failings of a relative of your Governor newsworthy? Does the Governor intervene to get him leniency?

mrsmagiclee1 karma

He's also a State Senator. Stole thousands of tax payers dollars to pay for trips and his Netflix account. He's fair game. Jeremy Hutchinson

TunaCatz6 karma

Is it your place to present the information in a biased way though? Why not leave it up to the listeners to form their own conclusions free from a biased intonation?

josh_hawthorne4 karma

But everyone is biased and has their own perspectives. I would rather have a journalist tell me what they think their biases are an acknowledging that they are biased in certain ways. The myth of objectivity leads us to believe that there is some raw information out there that is unbiased.

Information is interpreted by people and that interpretation is always biased in some way. For example, most news is biased towards keeping you reading and drawing your attention so they often traffic in controversy and frame politics as a horse race.

babylegsdetective29 karma

In India we're witnessing riots and genocide because of fake news and propoganda videos, what measures you can suggest to counter their spread?

josh_hawthorne28 karma

Warning people that there are false videos trying to foment riots and genocide that are circulating could work. We call this warning an inoculation in our theories. The idea is the warning can work like a vaccine against the fake information.

It's a horrible situation. The best solutions and most effective solutions will likely come from the platforms themselves. However sometimes that seems like a long shot and that the social media platforms seem unresponsive to these problems.

SAT07255 karma

How does one quantify motivations though? The powers-that-be often use the excuse that "fake news and propaganda videos" caused something -- like riots -- when there could be any number of other, more legitimate causes for things like dissent that those powers simply don't want to acknowledge as causes.

josh_hawthorne9 karma

We can ask the people who are participating, why they are participating. I deploy surveys to different groups, even partisan ones, to determine why they did what they did. Generally people have what they consider good reasons and sometimes that can shed light on whether they were exposed to false information.

SAT07256 karma

We can ask the people who are participating, why they are participating

This isn't always a good option though, particularly in situations that are highly charge political events that may or may not be being used for propaganda purposes. There are many cases throughout history where "riots" have been infiltrated or even incited by participants who have a vested interest in the political ramifications. Just a few examples from Wikipedia:

I've personally experienced the targeted political action of a right-wing college group employed by a national one that orchestrated an arrest onsite then used misinformation about said arrest to fundraise for their parent organization for the next several years. The entire situation was a setup and all the participants went on to either work directly in administrative roles for the parent organization or as paid political operatives for right-wing candidates in our state, where they join groups en masse at previously decided upon locations at strategic times to voice "organic community support" for various political causes.

After that experience I trust very little of what I read, see or hear in the media, as the media literally just reported everything the organization said and did unquestioningly, and it was all 100 percent false.

josh_hawthorne1 karma

That's the issue with coordinated strategic programs that seek to accomplish something like this. If enough people are participating and providing cover for what is going on it can be very convincing. The Russians in the 2016 election utilized different accounts for the same voices and botnets to create the feeling that many people were advocating and saying the same thing.

From an activist standpoint you need to be sure you can trust the people you are working with.

From a journalist standpoint you need to make sure to check out the different options and be aware that this type of strategic action occurs.

From a science standpoint, those smaller amount of planted provocateurs would likely be outweighed by the larger amount of participants in the subject pool who are naturally a part of the movement/organization so we still might be able to get good information by asking them why they are doing what they are doing.

VESTINGboot27 karma

What is the best way to find accurate news?

josh_hawthorne62 karma

Be aware that people on the Internet are trying to trick you is the first step. In particular be wary of things that confirm your prior beliefs about political opponents and politics (this is the easiest way that you can be tricked).

Next avoid news aggregators as they serve you information that you are going to like, or mostly agree with, in an attempt to keep you on the platform longer. Go directly to news source websites to stay informed.

Form a relationship with and consume media from different ideological perspectives to get a view of the different sides of an argument.

MorningsAreBetter24 karma

Next avoid news aggregators as they serve you information that you are going to like, or mostly agree with, in an attempt to keep you on the platform longer. Go directly to news source websites to stay informed.

So would you recommend avoiding political subs on Reddit?

josh_hawthorne72 karma

It can be useful to have discussion with others, but if it is your only source of information then you probably have a limited view of what is going on in the world.

NoFunHere5 karma

I think your whole approach leaves out the concept of biased facts. I could report nothing but facts, so a fact checker would positively verify the facts, while leaving out critical context. Or I could choose my facts so they tell one side of a story and therefore using facts to dishonestly report. That isn't much different from fake news when taken to the extreme.

josh_hawthorne4 karma

"Nothing but the facts" doesn't exist. You share an interpretation of facts that are based on your experience and position. The interpretation is necessarily biased because we cannot separate ourselves completely from our identity.

The truth and facts are created by people and supported by institutions. People use to think that the Earth was the center of the universe and was flat (hell some still do), and that fact was supported by the Church. New institutions of science then came along and challenged those views creating a different truth and a different set of facts. There isn't one set of facts/truth but there are many versions of facts and the truth in the heads of everyone.

BrohanGutenburg1 karma

I’m wondering if you’re aware of John Green’s Crash Course on Navigating Digital Media. He echoes a lot of the same sentiments and I’d be interested to know your opinion.

josh_hawthorne1 karma

I am not. Thanks for the info I'll check it out!

xXTERMIN8RXXx26 karma

How well are you able to quantify a level of difference in the amount of 'fake news' coming out of the major networks? Who would you say is the worst culprit of the bunch?

josh_hawthorne31 karma

Right now, not very well. But that's the goal of this project to build capacity to study questions like this. I'm hesitant to name a culprit before I have evidence to support my claim.

There are two major steps to doing this: collecting/monitoring the networks and coding content as fake news.

On the network side we can collect transcripts of news reports and put them into the computer for analysis if we want to do a post-hoc or after the fact analysis. If we are aiming for real-time dash boarding then we would have to monitor the networks in real-time, convert the video to text, and then run the analysis in an automated fashion.

As for coding the content as fake, that is the tricky part. We could train a model on third-party fact checkers to catch fraudulent news stories that are emerging from the major outlets. Another way is to involve human coders to "teach" a machine learning algorithm or model to catch fake stories that are circulating.

However, the major networks are not the biggest problem when it comes to fake news. Fake news mostly circulates online and then it might bubble up into the network coverage if there is enough online attention.

arkofjoy18 karma

I believe that the long term solution is to teach critical thinking in high school so that students begin learning how to tell the difference between "fake news" and reality. Do you think this is workable? Can these skills be taught?

josh_hawthorne30 karma

Critical thinking skills can totally be taught. To me, unfortunately our primary education system in the US seems geared towards producing workers who are not prepared to critically think and question what they are told.

Along with teaching critical thinking, I think teaching people about media and information literacy in high school would be a great first step. We do this in college. We can do this at lower levels of education as well.

TunaCatz3 karma

How do you teach someone who's an adult? Or even convince them that they need to be taught critical thinking skills without being condescending and turning them away?

josh_hawthorne3 karma

I teach young adults in college. I position myself as learning from them as well and try to make us teammates in the learning process.

Many adults have a good sense of media literacy and critical thinking about information, they just use those skills to convince themselves what they already believe is true. Engaging in research together to undercover the root source of information as a project is something that could work as well.

DoomGoober2 karma

Many countries have compulsory media literacy classes. Do you have a sense which countries do it well and what makes a good media literacy program? Also, how would we bring it to the States? Would it be a state by state effort (even county by county?)

josh_hawthorne3 karma

I do not. Some of my colleagues are experts in media literacy training and I rely on them for the insight about what might work best. My gut says that engaging, experiential based pedagogies that actually empower people to examine their media use and share what they find would be the best way.

In the states the move towards media literacy could start at the school board level. There is also funding leverage that states and the federal government could use to make these types of programs happen.

gavo2o9 karma

What can a student journalist do better learn how to verify a story or track it back to the source?

josh_hawthorne7 karma

Internet sleuthing, phone calls, and other forms of direct contact. Try to find confirming information online and directly contact those individuals involved in the story. Try to get them to provide proof that what they say is true.

rocgni9 karma

How do we suppress or debunk fake news spread through social media during an election cycle?

josh_hawthorne7 karma

Warning people that they are being tricked is one way. This is especially useful if you can get the warning out before the individual is exposed to a fake news message. Suppression of the messages could occur on the social platforms. Also, some hesitation by major news organizations to spread messages further and to wait until they have checked all the facts could really help stop fake news from getting out into the broader information environment.

MacM0mma1 karma

I have been warning people. They call me a liar. They dismiss the truth I tell, which is the truth of many. Others are blinded by propaganda they tout as truth. Discernment is necessary, yet discernment is used via the heart, logic, and compassion for others. Compassion has been lost in the quest for "facts." Our predecessors thought it couldn't happen here. It has and is happening here. Pseudo-intellectuals, however, who think they have it right have it very wrong. Dangerously so.

josh_hawthorne2 karma

Many may not want to believe that have been tricked. I think the warning needs to come from a trusted source to be effective. Maybe those who call you a liar don't share the same partisanship and don't trust your political beliefs. For them a different source that they do trust would work better to persuade them.

Bardfinn8 karma

How would you go about communicating about epistemologies of ignorance, in a way that doesn't require a deep literature background for the audience? In other words: How would you exposit to a general audience the "signature features" of epistemologies of ignorance?

josh_hawthorne3 karma

For one stop using words like epistemology.

Also explain that there isn't just one version of the truth or facts. Quoting myself from a different question:

The truth and facts are created by people and supported by institutions. People use to think that the Earth was the center of the universe and was flat (hell some still do), and that fact was supported by the Church. New institutions of science then came along and challenged those views creating a different truth and a different set of facts. There isn't one set of facts/truth but there are many versions of facts and the truth in the heads of everyone.

The key then is explaining how truth is supported and questioning the evidence the institution is using to make their interpretation.

Bardfinn1 karma

Also explain that there isn't just one version of the truth or facts.

There's a certain culture that immediately reads that kind of assertion and responds with a cultivated ignorance reflex of "PostModernism!!!eleventybangone!". One of the challenges in communicating to people with that cultivated reflex, is countering or dismantling that narrative without reinforcing it. Any thoughts on that?

(also: thanks for the answer)

josh_hawthorne2 karma

Maybe take them in a neomaterialist direction. The physical world matters and is there, but is built by people and the design constrains behavior in various ways.

I like to get people to fill in the gaps themselves by asking questions. I take a socratic approach to talking about these deep philosophical issues.

dikvanbil8 karma

Is there an easy way to recognize propaganda and/or fake news? How can I teach myself to be alert on misinformation?

josh_hawthorne26 karma

If you are reading a story that pisses you off, makes you angry, and largely confirms your prior beliefs than this could be a sign you are seeing a fake message. Avoid stories with ALL CAPS in the headlines or content in the story that seems to make bold assertions without a lot of evidence. Check the links provided as evidence in stories to make sure they actually say what the article is saying that they say.

moelesterstallone7 karma

Kind of irrelevant but thoughts on MKUltra and MkNaomi?

josh_hawthorne2 karma

Governments have a history of testing weapons on humans unfortunately. They often attempt to cover this up using propaganda. I don't know much about these specific projects however.

SAT07256 karma

If you had to summarize the traditional "propaganda path" that information takes when the powers-that-be want the public to believe something, what would that look like?

I often note that when the U.S. wants to go to war, for example, articles in the major media outlets progressively dehumanize the proposed enemy in the lead up to any political decisions. First they're found killing Christians, for example, then they're found raping all the women, then they're killing babies by throwing them out hospital windows, and so on.

Has your research covered anything like this?

josh_hawthorne3 karma

Dehumanization is clearly a storyline that moves people towards violence and war. If your enemy is less than human, they are different from you, you have less bad feelings about inflicting violence on that enemy. This idea is well supported by the previous literature on genocide/group violence and my own research.

As for a modern Propaganda Path, we are seeing most false news stories start and be spread via social media. There might be a blog that hosts the original content, but they put it out there to share on social almost immediately. Then it starts to get traction, and most of the time this is initially started by the propaganda team through coordinated voting/liking/sharing and botnets. Once it gets enough attention then the story becomes trending on the site. Once a story is trending more mainstream news sources, including partisan news, will likely start talking about the story.

Russian propaganda in the US during 2016 to the present tried to emphasize and make deeper the cultural conflicts that are already existing in our society. They did this first by gaining support of various groups on the social platforms and building a presence. Then their efforts moved to a second phase to emphasize the cultural conflicts, trying to people leaning towards Clinton people not to vote, and trying to people leaning away from Clinton to show up and vote (mostly for Trump but also third party candidates).

SAT07251 karma

There might be a blog that hosts the original content ... Then it starts to get traction ... Once a story is trending more mainstream news sources

This is interesting. Ryan Holiday covers this in "Trust Me, I'm Lying," I think calling it "trading up." You start by pitching a crazy story to a blog, which has a lower threshold for media scrutiny, then as it builds, the more "credible" mainstream media picks it up, too.

josh_hawthorne1 karma

Totally the same process. That's how you can game our modern information system.

SAT07251 karma

Russian propaganda in the US during 2016 to the present tried to emphasize and make deeper the cultural conflicts that are already existing in our society. They did this first by gaining support of various groups on the social platforms and building a presence. Then their efforts moved to a second phase to emphasize the cultural conflicts, trying to people leaning towards Clinton people not to vote, and trying to people leaning away from Clinton to show up and vote (mostly for Trump but also third party candidates).

What I don't understand about why people being so up in arms about in relation to this, is that it's exactly what opposing campaigns do to each other as a matter of course. Emphasizing existing conflicts and using them to divide your opponents' supporters is Politics 101, and Clinton and Trump did it way more to each other than any Russians did it to either of them, and they spent magnitudes more time, money and resources to do it. Is it just because it was Russia that people care more?

josh_hawthorne1 karma

You are right that this type of stuff has gone on for a long time by campaigns from all over. It is an issue now because we have federal laws in the US that prohibit foreign nationals to by election ads and try to sway US election results. Conspiracy with a foreign national to engage in such activities would be a federal crime as well. This has led to a lot of news coverage and investigations.

I think people are also interested in the intrigue and story line here as well.

JDburn086 karma

Does reading factually incorrect “news” have an impact on people’s perceptions, even if they already knew it wasn’t true when read/listening/watching it?

josh_hawthorne7 karma

Having an idea that a message is false before exposure can help you avoid believing that idea. We call this inoculation in our literature.

If you don't have an idea that a message is false, then exposure to any idea makes that idea more accessible in your mind in the future. When we are repeatedly exposed to the same idea over and over, from potentially different sources (e.g. friends on social media), then it can seem even more true.

randomrealitycheck4 karma

Do you believe that the motivation for these attacks on the media have anything to do with a concerted effort to undermine the free press?

Social consensus through the influence of committed minorities

At first, I honestly thought that these efforts were little more than amateur attempts at trolling until I understood how powerful an orchestrated campaign of this type could be.

Take a look at the comments by /u/vsixv or /u/Count___Duckula for explicit examples.

josh_hawthorne5 karma

That's one of the conclusions of the article I linked above. Trump's claims that some sources are "fake news" is about discrediting those sources which may challenge his authority. If a source is not credible then why should anyone pay attention to them? If a source is not considered credible then in a few more steps we can claim those sources are a threat or a problem to society. The next step then is systematic censorship.

Yashoyash3 karma

What do you think of Singapores anti-fake news bill ?

josh_hawthorne3 karma

I'm skeptical of government driven efforts to define fact and truth. I fear these efforts will result in the government using their power to crush dissent and lock in the power of the regime for a long time.

Unfortunately, I don't know enough about the bill or Singapore's culture/government to offer a lot of analysis.

SpaceBoggled3 karma

Do you think we’re behind Russia in understanding propaganda? I heard they had whole departments of philology devoted to its production. I feel like in the west we didn’t take the threat seriously enough and largely left it to the advertising and Pr industries to put forward the positive aspects of western society - industries that in themselves lead to a sort of demoralisation.

I know that you can’t really counter propaganda with propaganda as you risk stooping to the enemy’s level and becoming undemocratic, but do you think we need to lose some of our scruples in the face of threats such as the internet that can completely hack someone’s mind? I hear people say education is the answer, but this too can be seen as propagandistic.

josh_hawthorne4 karma

From a government run propaganda standpoint yes. From a corporate strategic communication standpoint, we are still very much ahead. In modern US corporations and interest groups have done much of the persuading via digital tools. These strategies and tactics were utilized by Russia and when combined with their willingness to lie and promote a cohesive narrative across individuals and actors it becomes particularly potent.

Propaganda has been countered with other propaganda in the past. I'll quote myself from a different answer to highlight some ideas of the truth and facts:

The truth and facts are created by people and supported by institutions. People use to think that the Earth was the center of the universe and was flat (hell some still do), and that fact was supported by the Church. New institutions of science then came along and challenged those views creating a different truth and a different set of facts. There isn't one set of facts/truth but there are many versions of facts and the truth in the heads of everyone.

The key then becomes building and supporting institutions that support facts and truth that is beneficial for the most people.

colossuskidd3 karma

Hey Professor, i am studying mass comm at King’s College, any advice for any future college graduates?

josh_hawthorne3 karma

Study hard and don't do drugs. /jk

Try to get as much experience as you can making media, doing research, and working towards the career you want in the future. You can do media now with the tools available.

If you want to aim for research in the future try to get involved with faculty projects.

If you are aiming for a strategic communication path learn how to use databases and target people along with telling compelling stories.

LegitimateThinSleazy3 karma

Do you believe it is ever ethical to manipulate the media, such as hiding the name of a mass murderer or if the government limits information flow during a crisis to reduce panic? I imagine as someone teaching strategic communications at a college you get a lot of students who might eventually use that knowledge with ulterior motives or controversial gray areas.

josh_hawthorne1 karma

The media is not something that is just out there, it's something that was created by people and it has always been regulated in various ways. I'm questioning whether it is possible for the media to be manipulated since there is no inherently natural way to distribute information. Those examples you mention are both ways that media is controlled in today's society. As for the ethicality, I think that in information puts others in direct harm or might create more harm for people then it is the responsibility of a journalist/platform/communicator to evaluate the benefit of sharing that information.

We try to teach ethics and how to act ethically in the strategic communication training field to act in the best interest of everyone involved. However, there are lots of shades of grey as you mentioned so it is a difficult task.

stevegiovinco3 karma

Do you look at the "fake news" historically, such as in other mediums, such as newspapers, radio, newsreels and television? I would image there are similarities, even though it might have been called something else.

josh_hawthorne6 karma

Yes. Propaganda has a long history. The field of communication/rhetoric has studied "fake news" going back to ancient Greece and the sophists.

There are tons of similarities between historical attempts to use propaganda to persuade and today's challenges. The biggest difference is that it is more people have access to information, more people can spread information, and it's much harder to correctly attribute information as true when there is a whole bunch of it out there.

imperium02142 karma

There seems to be a lot of money involved in producing clickbait news or biased news compared to more objective news. Do you think that's because people prefer a more convenient half truth than one that could be inconvenient? If so, how do you combat that? News providers generally get their funding through advertisements and they'll go where the most eyeballs are.

Sorry if that was phrased weird!

josh_hawthorne1 karma

The web platforms themselves have made it harder to make money on blatantly false stories than was possible in 2016. For example, Google adwords now tries to stop working on sites they have determined as fake.

There are subscription models for news providers which promotes a longer term relationship with readers that is built on trust and providing useful and credible information.

Trans_am19782 karma

How do you feel about Chomsky's Manufacturing Consent and how do you incorporate it into your own work?

josh_hawthorne1 karma

Chomsky provides a philosophic baseline for a lot of work in the Communication field. I use ideas from Chomsky in class. I usually work with and cite more empirical studies, so I've not cited this in any of my research.

moelesterstallone2 karma

Is there a lot of fake news involved with most of the mainstream news outlets aka Fox40/CNN/ABC new?

josh_hawthorne1 karma

Not really. There might be some that work up from the Internet, into trending on social media, and then picked up on mainstream news sources, but the huge amount of false news stories is mostly online.

ChronoKing2 karma

What legal/regulatory policies would help curtail digital propaganda without eroding free speech?

josh_hawthorne1 karma

Freedom of speech is something that is guaranteed by the government, not corporations. So, any policy created by the platforms rather than the government could help solve the problem without eroding free speech.

Methany8781 karma

teaching propaganda

Uh oh ;)

Joking aside, thanks for doing this!

A while back, I heard about plans (perhaps more of a vision, really) to use machine learning to identify propaganda and fake news. Are you aware of a project like this, or even using it in your own? I would very much like to know how far along those capabilities are today.

josh_hawthorne3 karma


The machine learning approaches are basically using machine learning to find and depopularize fake news messages. One of the goals of this project is to get the tools so we can conduct some of that research as well! The techniques are moving forward, but we are working against adversaries that constantly change tactics and targets, which can make it difficult to effectively train a model. We need moar data!

ithinkimthebadguy1 karma

How do you get grant funding?

josh_hawthorne4 karma

Apply to a ton of grants and be prepared to be rejected a lot.

ithinkimthebadguy1 karma

As a researcher, I understand that. Took me 26 applications before I got my R01. Could you provide more detail? What sort of places fund your flavor of research?

josh_hawthorne1 karma

Well I'm crowdfunding, so that might tell you the success I've had with other grant funding efforts lol.

I've found that smaller, more non-profity type agencies are more receptive to research on propaganda. Historically, the modern Communication field was instituted in modern universities/colleges because of funding by the US government. Such widespread funding from the government has mostly dried up.

Some agencies that are interested in this type of work are the Knight Foundation and Reynolds Journalism Institute.

mrxaso1 karma

how do you define fake news?

josh_hawthorne1 karma

I use the term fake news to designate fraudulent stories that are made up. Many stories and many propaganda stories have some basis in fact, but then it goes in a direction of exaggeration and opinion, and that would not fully qualify as fake news.

Jackmack651 karma

Though I recognize I am biased, I perceive persistent rightward tilt in the mainstream media in the US. A couple examples: typically, Republicans speak first and last in interviews, and most issues are framed through Republican talking points.

Two questions: 1, why is there so little academic or other high-quality research into media bias? 2, What in your view would need to happen for Americans to begin to trust major news media at levels similar to the 1970s or so?

josh_hawthorne2 karma

There are tone of academic studies on media bias. Here is a link to quite a few:

I think that the declining trust in media sources is somewhat a function of there being more choices. Another reason is because partisan news has become a thing since the 70s and those groups are motivated to decrease trust in other (perhaps opposing sources) to maintain their partisan audience. Most consumers of partisan news believe that their selected source is credible and others are not.

As for a true solution to building trust with media, I think a resurgence of local news sources in communities could be a great help. Fellow community members that you know and that work on local news can be a great resource for a community and help build trust in a local news source than can then expand to other news sources.

klee641 karma

Where can we find unbiased information?

josh_hawthorne2 karma

You can't. All interpretations of facts and truth is biased. You should rather be aware of the biases of various sources and adjust your view of the world accordingly.