Show Your Work: The Pinocchio Test

While Politifact rates acts of fiction by public officials on a scale of True to Pants on Fire, WashPo uses the Pinocchios: how many wooden noses does it rank?

U.S. Sen. Katie Britt’s rebuttal to the State of the Union ranked four Pinocchios for bizarrely conflating a sex trafficking horror story with the policies of President Biden. WashPo dug in and found that the woman whose story she told – and who was brave enough to testify about the horrors she endured before Congress – was trafficked in Mexico, not over the border; had nothing to do with immigration but of a woman being tricked into sex slavery by a man she loved; and it took place in 2004-2008, which was during President George W. Bush’s tenure. It also had nothing to do with cartels, despite Britt’s later protestations that basically amounted to, “Facts? What facts?” Politifact also rated the claim false, with a great deal of detail.

Also, the lady involved is a tad peeved about it.

Biden’s speech took a few hits from the fact-checkers. One I find a tad nitpicky: WashPo points out that Biden was comparing the massive job creation in his first three years to the full four years of his predecessors; “he has no idea what will happen in his fourth year!” Okay, but I think we all get that he’s not psychic. However, his inflation numbers are a tad… inflated? (sorry.) And there are a few other Pinocchios in the numbers on the wealthy and taxes because corporate/millionaire taxes are complex. The poor poor dears. Here’s the roundup from WashPo.

Elsewhere this week, ProPublica dove into railroad safety and how the Federal Railroad Administration…. er, doesn’t. More than 130 deaths of workers never even reported, with no consequences.

Reuters found the darker side of OnlyFans: more than 120 cases of people being featured in explicit videos without consent, including a woman who was raped and the video sold on the site. Cases of stalkers and revenge porn are on the rise on the site. What makes this different than YouTube or other places where human monsters post this kind of material? OnlyFans’ paywall makes it nearly impossible for law enforcement to do anything.

Government: A.I. could pose an extinction-level threat to people who aren’t writers. Writers are already there.

The Detroit Free Press found that the people of Flint, Mich. may have clean water now, but still haven’t received a dime of the $600m+ they were awarded in the lawsuits.

Editor and Publisher dug into the upcoming merger between Mother Jones and the Center for Investigative Reporting/Reveal.

Poynter examines how political campaigns are pivoting away from the press to take their messages directly through social media, and how that dovetails with the rising anti-media hate on the right.

The two McClatchy papers in the Seattle area are moving to printing only three days a week. I wish people would stop seeing these moves as death knells. In an era where more than 80 percent of readers get their news from a device, continuing print editions is clinging to nostalgia. The best explanation I ever heard for it came from a newspaper editor and colleague, who was asked the question by my students a few semesters ago. He told them that we all know the print edition is going the way of movable type, not that any of them knew what that is. But there is a generation that still prefers paper newspapers, and it would unethical to leave them without news at all. But not to put too fine a point on it, that generation won’t be around forever. One interesting legal point: can you be the paper of record if your publication is online only? Some lawyers and scholars say no, but what will they do for legal ads when everyone is online?

Sadly, the Online News Association is making major programming cuts, including its Student Newsroom and Innovation Lab. They point out that there are fewer journalists in the U.S. and fewer still with time and money for professional organizations. As one who has been deeply involved with the venerable Society of Professional Journalists throughout her career, I know this one well. Of ONA’s 51 chapters, 35 are inactive and only four have held an in-person event in the last year.

Meta is decommissioning CrowdTangle and replacing it with a similar tool that will only be available to academic and nonprofit researchers. Journalists not allowed. CrowdTangle has been widely used to follow viral spread of content, including misinformation and conspiracy theories, as well as figuring out what people are clicking so we can give them more of it.

Speaking of misinformation…. to the surprise of *checks notes* absolutely no one, OpenAI is completely ramping up election-year fakery with AI-generated robocalls, deepfake videos and images that are already making inroads overseas and in the U.S.

And now, This Week in Total Bullshit:

• U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene did NOT retweet and support allegations that satellites are intercepting prayer to Jesus. That was a spoof account.

• Michael Moore did not endorse Trump. (Seriously?)

• No, non-citizens still can’t vote, and you can’t bring in busfuls of undocumented immigrants to make them vote for you, which former President Trump has declared often over the past four years. How anyone can believe this staggers me. It’s worth noting that in other countries, non-citizens can vote if they own property, because taxation without representation is kind of a bad thing. We fought a teeny little revolution over it. But not here. Also, there are no ballot drop boxes along the U.S. border.

• The Texas wildfires were not started by a mysterious green laser. Insert your own alien attack meme here.

• No, the CDC did NOT declare that “COVID is just the flu” and I am so, so tired. Also, when your ranting uncle declares at Easter that the CDC found 99 percent of COVID deaths were due to other causes, that’s also total bullshit.